Granite producers are making frantic efforts to avoid a ban on exports to save their operations and jobs in the sector, businessdigest has learnt.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has tasked Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu to work on regulations banning exports of unprocessed granite.
"This has been an eye-opener. I am told that this factory has been in existence for quite some time, but all that I knew was our rocks were being extracted and depleted in Mutoko and sent in big blocks to Beira on their way to Europe," he said after touring Southern Granites (Pvt) Ltd in Chitungwiza in June this year.
"The information was that we did not have capacity nor the technology to process these rocks to become finished products. Now that we have the technology I have instructed the Minister of Industry and Commerce (Mangaliso Ndlovu) to craft a Statutory Instrument to ban the exportation of raw blocks. We need to value add."
However, granite producers who spoke to businessdigest this week said if the ban is imposed it could sound the death knell for the sector and deprive the country of foreign currency.
"The ban, if implemented, would be disastrous for us as granite producers," one of the key players in the sector said. "It will virtually mean the closure of the sector and the losses of numerous jobs. It will also mean that it will cut the supply of foreign currency the sector brings at a time the country is starved of forex."
The producers, the source said, approached Ndlovu to inform him of the consequences the ban would have. Ndlovu, the source said, has asked for a written presentation on the pitfalls of banning granite exports.
"We prepared a comprehensive report on the consequences the ban on granite exports will have not only on the sector, but also on the economy as a whole," the source said.
In an interview, Ndlovu said he has met several granite producers over the issue, adding negotiations are ongoing.
"I met all the players in the granite sector in the past week and there has been continued interaction," Ndlovu said. "We needed to know all the dynamics in the sector."
Instead of an outright ban, he said government would rather restrict the export of the mineral. Ndlovu said he has told the granite producers to come together and work towards value addition.
Producers are exporting granite in its raw form."We will give them a fair amount of time to get together and work on beneficiation. If they fail within that timeframe, we are likely to use restrictive measures," Ndlovu said.
Granite producers are already reeling from various challenges which include prolonged power outages and foreign currency shortages which have seriously affected their operations, resulting in the closure of half of the operating companies over the last year.