The availability of vast locally-sourced raw materials, which are a key pillar to promote development of the wood furniture manufacturing sector, presents opportunities for growing Zimbabwe's export capacity, a new report has revealed.
ZimTrade, the country's export promotion body, said in its report that given favourable climatic conditions that support farming of timber in Zimbabwe, the furniture sector has capacity to produce enough products to supply foreign markets.
Zimbabwe boasts of abundant timber resources with high-quality hardwoods such as teak, pine and mukwa.
These are used on most of highly sought-after and luxurious furniture products that fetch higher prices in the export market.
According to Trademap, the global exports in wooden furniture in 2018 amounted to over US$50 billion.
However, Zimbabwe only exported wooden furniture worth US$3,1 million, a major decline from US$8,6 million which was realised in 2017.
"This is against the existence of ready markets for Zimbabwean produced wooden products in countries such as the United States of
America, Germany, United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands which local producers can tap into," the report says.
In the Southern Africa Development Community and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa regions, top importers with growing imports
include South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Angola and Kenya.
To harness the potential presented by these markets, ZimTrade said there is need for concerted effort from government and private players
to address challenges that affect the production and export of wooden furniture.
For example, under the Rapid Results Initiative of 2017, Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe de-centralised issuance of timber movement and
export permits to district officers and reduced the cost of export documentation by 50%.
This presented an opportunity for sector players to reduce the cost of doing business and time required to facilitate exportation of
"With regard to quality of Zimbabwe-produced wood furniture, there is need for sector private players to invest in innovation, research
and development so that they produce cutting-edge products that set new trends in the global market," ZimTrade said.
The report notes that the global performance of the sector was affected by factors such as falling consumer income, shifting lifestyles
and changing urban landscapes.
"It is, therefore, important for local players to continuously monitor target markets," ZimTrade added. "By understanding market tastes
and requirements, local players will have the capacity to produce products that can perform well compared with competition from other
Modern wooden furniture designs are sold at a higher price and cost less in production and transportation.
For example, most players in South Africa have moved away from exporting assembled products to producing collapsible modular designs
that can be easily assembled at the final market or by the end user at their home.
Thus, the cost per unit in production and transportation is cheaper and this makes modern designs highly competitive on the global market.
To assist local sector players to produce modern designs, ZimTrade said there was need for government to reduce and eventually eliminate
import duty on production equipment. This will enable manufacturers to match with competing designs from other countries.
ZimTrade notes that another game changer for the wood furniture industry will be realised when sector players and visual artists work
together to create and patent designs that are unique to Zimbabwe.
"These designs will earn more as value is added on the actual product and the unique idea that inspired the woodworks," it said.
ZimTrade has been working with Netherlands-based PUM and Germany-based Senior Experten Services to improving the production efficiencies
and competitiveness of local sector players' companies.
"There is further room for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operating in the furniture sector to strengthen their competitiveness by
forming an active association that can foster better standards and quality of products produced in the country," the body said.
In the past few years, the furniture sector in Zimbabwe has seen the emergence of many SMEs -- a greater number of which require huge support to inculcate business and export skills.