ZIMBABWE recorded a trade deficit of $323 million in the first quarter of the year, an indication the country continues to rely on foreign-produced goods in spite of government efforts to halt the tide, latest trade data from the national statistics agency shows.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
Information released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) recently shows that imports to March amounted to $490 million against $167 million exports, which remain heavily skewed towards consumptive products following a significant drop in raw materials importation.
Most of the imports were consumptive products such as bottled water, sugar, soap, cooking oil, cellphone handsets, electronics, vehicle spares, vehicles, generators and second hand vehicles.
The exports in the period under review included beef, tobacco and other agricultural produce, as well as wines, minerals and scrap metal.
Cumulatively, to March, Zimbabwe’s imports stood at $1,3 billion while exports amounted to $626 million.
In 2015, Zimbabwe’s trade deficit stayed flat at $3,3 billion.
The government has predicted a $3 billion trade deficit for the whole year. Imports were projected to decline marginally from $6,3 billion in 2015 to $6,2 billion this year, while exports were expected to grow to $3,7 billion this year from $3,4 billion projected last year.
In 2014, Zimbabwe also registered trade deficit of $3,3 billion, while in 2013 it was $4,19 billion.
Recently, ZimTrade noted in a report that Zimbabwe’s huge trade deficit continues to widen, due to low exports and a growing import bill, made up mostly of consumer goods.
It said that was a worrisome trend at a time when exports should be the main driver for economic growth.
Estimates from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe show that in 2015, Zimbabwe exported manufactured goods worth $475,2 million, 7% lower than in 2014.
The fall in international commodity prices hit Zimbabwe’s overall export figures, as minerals constitute the bulk of Zimbabwe’s exports.
Value added or manufactured exports, which normally fetch higher earnings, performed poorly during the same period as Zimbabwe’s industry continued to struggle.
Seven representative manufacturing subsectors, namely clothing, furniture, food, beverages, engineering, leather and footwear, as well as agricultural inputs, were selected for ZimTrade’s research.
In 2015, these subsectors constituted about 10% of total exports, down from 13% in 2014.
ZimTrade said there was an urgent need for Zimbabwe to address trade facilitation issues and implement reforms if the country was to realise an export led economic growth.