Zimbabwe: Decision On Imports Draws Mixed Views

25 October 2018

Amendment of the Statutory Instrument (SI) 122 of 2017 to allow companies and individuals with offshore and free funds to import basic commodities currently in short supply has elicited mixed feelings from individuals and companies.

The specified commodities include animal oils and fats, baked beans, body creams, bottled water, cement, cereals, cheese, coffee creams, cooking oil, crude soya bean oil, fertiliser, finished steel roofing sheets, wheat flour and ice cream.

A section of Zimbabweans felt the action taken by Government was timely to ensure basic goods become available and affordable.

Others though said free import of goods would only benefit those with foreign currency.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, however, said it supported the amendment of SI122 as this allowed ordinary people to access affordable goods from neighbouring countries.

CCZ executive director, Ms Rosemary Siyachitema said they had advocated for the opening of the borders so that consumers could get goods that were in short supply.

"We advocated for the opening of the borders after the challenge of empty shelves and high prices for basics commodities. People could no longer afford basics such as cooking oil. Through the opening of the borders, prices can go down because of competition," said Ms Siyachitema.

"Christmas is around the corner so we hope this temporary measure will improve food supplies. People do not want to be stressed with high prices or food shortages during the festive season," she said.

Ms Siyachitema said the reprieve will allow Government to look into the real causes of the current shortages.

United Refineries Limited chief executive and former CZI president Mr Busisa Moyo said the suspension of SI122 had its downside on the economy.

"The Statutory Instrument was meant to help industry and protect it from unfair competition from imports," he said.

"Although the suspension will help stabilise prices, I do not see this working in the long run. Prices of basic commodities will go up, this will worsen the foreign currency situation in the country.

"Mind you the supply gaps being experienced are a result of foreign currency shortages, so if SI122 is suspended, this will create more overheads for companies," he said.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director, Mr Paul Zakariya yesterday said the move taken by Government was good for farmers as they can now easily import inputs. He said the only challenge was that most farmers did not have foreign currency.

"It is good for people to import inputs if they have foreign currency. The only challenge is that people will be forced to look for foreign currency on the parallel market and rates will continue to increase. This may reflect on retailers who may also increase prices of commodities," he said.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Mr Denford Mutashu said some suppliers yesterday panicked and started making arrangements to resume supplies which they had last made on October 2.

He said Government made a noble move in light of shortages of basic commodities on the market.

"If supplies do not come, retailers will have nothing on shelves because we do not manufacture goods. But now we can buy on our own and ensure there is product availability for consumers," he said.

Buy Zimbabwe chief executive, Mr Munyaradzi Hwengwere yesterday said the move was potentially disastrous.

"Government should immediately introduce a local content programme and align local producers such as miners and farmers to the value chain. Local producers failed to fully supply the market because we had not deepened linkages with the value chain.

"In cooking oil, we should have increased soya, cotton seed production with the RBZ allocations directed to companies growing their uptake and lead top job creations. We have just opened up borders with the risk that this will not only cause de industrialisation, but also job losses."

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