Zimbabweans spent US$5m on chewing gum and toilet paper imports

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Industry Minister MIke Bimha

Zimbabwe imported non-essentials worth a whopping US$10 million in 2017, with toilet paper, chewing gum, dog and cat food topping the list.

The overall January to November import bill was US$4,9 billion against exports of US$3, 4 billion, an increase of 40 percent on 2016 outbound sales.

Latest Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency information shows US$3, 4 million was spent on tissue paper, US$1,3 million on cat and dog food and US$1,2 million on chewing gum.

Toothbrushes worth roughly US$1, 1 million were imported while dish towels, dusters and mutton cloths accounted for US$287 887.

An additional US$427 973 was splurged on natural honey, floor sweepers, mops and feather dusters.

Cumulatively, over 4 000 types of household and industrial materials were brought into Zimbabwe from 155 countries.

Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development Minister Dr Mike Bimha said authorities were addressing the situation through domestic industry support interventions.

“I don’t have those figures yet, but Government’s policy is clear. We are in the process of growing investments and encouraging local content production.

“So, we are working with various stakeholders to ensure we increase availability of foreign currency. Statutory Instrument 64 resuscitated a lot of companies and even those that did not want foreign currency previously suddenly approached the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to ask for it.”

Buy Zimbabwe general manager Mr Munyaradzi Hwengwere said, “It’s an irrational act of exuberance. We need to either substitute imports or increase exports to cover up for the non-essentials we continue to import.

“The fact remains that if you do not generate well, you remain poor. Even locally-manufactured products require foreign components for their manufacture. These raw materials often make up to 60 percent of the product.”

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe added, “Local production is important. Incessant importation of raw materials and finished goods — at a time foreign currency is scarce here — is to blame for basic goods price hikes.

“In 2017, US$240 million was spent on importing soya bean crude oil which is used in the manufacture of cooking oil. As a country, we have to try and reduce importing goods we are capable of producing on our own, for instance, soya bean crude oil. If we had our own (crude oil), that would have saved the country about 30 percent and that sum would have been used in other sectors that require financial support. Captains of industry are engaging Government over a foreign currency allocation strategy that prioritises essential industries.”

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu said, “Imports are coming in formally and informally. Some of these products are not under SI64, hence they continue to be imported. It’s a mystery that we have stooped so low as to import anything that has a foreign brand on it.

“There should be a strategy to position our country so that it can produce such trinkets on its own because we have the capacity. To us, retailers, it’s an issue of consumer choice.

“We need to create an environment of policy predictability so that those who are able to manufacture such goods will do so knowing that their investments are secure. It’s also an issue of machinery. We need to invest in the requisite machinery.” – Sunday Mail