Archer decries termination of Zim/SA trade agreement

ARCHER Clothing Manufacturers has been forced to downscale its operations due to electricity challenges as well as a reduction in export orders, following the termination of the Zimbabwe-South Africa bi-lateral trade agreement.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

South Africa last year terminated the 1964 pact, which favoured Zimbabwean exports of clothing and textiles due to relaxed rules of origin of “single transformation” compared to “double transformation” under the Sadc Protocol on Trade.

“We were forced to downscale the operations to equate with the electrical infrastructure and also a reduction in export orders due to the stagnation of the Zimbabwe-South Africa bi-lateral trade agreement negotiations between the two governments,” the company’s managing director, Jeremy Youmans told NewsDay in an emailed response.

“We have rebuilt most of the infrastructure, including a generator to power the whole factory, allowing for the increased demand if we get to full capacity. We are still trying to get the new transformer we had to buy installed and set up by Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority,” he said.

Due to these challenges, Youmans said export sales were declining, but could not provide figures.

“We are working on lots of new markets to try and develop these, but that all takes time. The greatest opportunity is South Africa, but we need the government to finalise the trading issues with the BTA for not only us, but many companies, to realise the opportunity to increase this intra-African trade and go some way to balancing the trade deficit we have with South Africa,” he said.

Once the electricity issues are finalised, if they could get better access to regional markets and get forex allocations to enable them to procure imported raw materials, Youmans said they could start employing again and train new employees.

He said by year-end, so little would have changed other than the finalisation of several projects which they were undertaking.

“In 2020, we hope the environment will improve with better export trading opportunities, foreign currency availability and a relatively stable local economy. We plan to significantly develop our leather factory and building capacity for another 1 000 employees in clothing,” Youmans said.

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