BY SHAME MAKOSHORI
A CONTROVERSIAL firm that produces bling products for domestic and international markets has shaken Zimbabwe’s export market, outsmarting big brands in the past four years, central bank data showed yesterday.
Suzan General Trading, which exports jewellery products and beneficiates diamonds and gold, is generally out of the spotlight.
But away from public limelight, the firm has developed a network that has given it financial clout, generating more United States dollars for the country than most big brand manufacturers, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) said.
Exchange control data obtained by NewsDay Business shows that Suzan has exported products worth over US$330 million since 2018, dwarfing the combined exports of many big brands.
The firm courted controversy in 2018 when an RBZ boss was dragged to court for criminal abuse of office.
It was alleged at the time that on October 13, 2017, Suzan opened a bank account to facilitate payments from Fidelity Printers and Refiners, the firm that buys all of Zimbabwe’s gold.
In the aftermath, an RBZ director appeared in court, accused of authorising the withdrawal by Suzan of amounts beyond the authorised limits.
The firm has been named in other cases involving gold, but none of its executives have ever been found guilty in Zimbabwe.
Exports out of its international sales reached US$40,9 million in 2018, before rising to US$113,2 million in 2019.
The value surged to US$168 million in 2020, even as the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns grounded economies, before slowing down to US$6,6 million last year, but still far ahead of the rest of the country’s exporters.
By April 26 this year, Suzan had exported products worth US$1 million.
The US$330 million exports revenue was far ahead of second-placed Tregers, which exported goods worth US$55,2 million during the four-year period, according to the exchange control table listing the top 20 best exporters from the manufacturing sector.
Paramount Exports was the third after shipping out products worth US$49,6 million during the period.
Other big exporters included Sunny Yi Feng Tiles Zimbabwe, a Chinese firm that has been manufacturing tiles in Norton in the past three years.
Hunyani Group, Schweppes Zimbabwe, Lobels Biscuits, Megapak Zimbabwe, Varun Beverages, Nestle Zimbabwe and Steelmakers Zimbabwe are some of the firms that made it to the top 20, according to central bank data.
Zimbabwe has struggled to generate enough exports to power its faltering economy, but the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) said on Wednesday exports from
the manufacturing sector were firming.
It said exports grew by 5,5% to US$404 million in 2021, powered by improved access to cheaper foreign currency from the foreign currency auction system.
Industry and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza said the manufacturing industry was poised for growth.
“Testimony to this, the manufacturing sector has realised a 5,5% increase in exports from US$383 million in 2020 to US$404 million in 2021,” said Nzenza, speaking at the launch of the CZI’s 2021 Manufacturing Sector Survey report launch in Harare.
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