HARARE – Zimbabwe has banned the importation of various basic commodities to help reduce its burgeoning import bill and protect local industries.
Information released by the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (Zimstat) on Friday shows that the country imported goods valued at $2 billion in the five months to May 2015 compared to exports of $948 million, resulting in a $1,122 billion trade deficit.
This compares unfavourably with a trade deficit of $695 registered in the first quarter of this year prompting the government to come up with drastic measures to restrict imports.
Most of the imports in the period under review include consumptive products such as bottled water, sugar, soap, cooking oil, cellphone handsets, electronics, vehicle spares, clothing and second-hand vehicles, which account for over 70 percent of the import bill.
According to Zimstat, Zimbabwe exported beef, tobacco and other agricultural produce as well as wines, minerals and scrap metal.
As part of strategies to stem the widening trade deficit, Industry minister Mike Bimha on Friday gazetted regulations aimed at stimulating exports, which should be the main driver for economic growth.
According to Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, it is now illegal to import coffee creamers (Cremora), Camphor creams, white petroleum jellies and body creams.
The new regulations also ban the importation of baked beans and potato crisps, cereals, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jams, maheu, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza base, yoghurts, flavoured milks, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk and cheese.
Other products being regulated under the new dispensation include construction products such as wheelbarrows, structures and parts of structures of iron or steel — bridges and bridges section, lock gates, towers, lattice masts, roofs, roofing frameworks, doors, windows and their frames and threshold for doors, shutters, balustrade, pillars and columns and plates, rods, angles, shapes section and tubes prepared for use in structures of iron and steel ware.
Bimha also banned the importation of second-hand tyres, all re-treaded or used pneumatic tyres of rubber, baler and binder twine, fertilisers (urea and ammonium nitrate), compounds and blends, tile adhesive and tylon, shoe polish and synthetic hair products
The new statutory instrument also outlaws the importation of flash doors, beds, wardrobes, dining room suites, office furniture and tissue wading.
Woven fabrics of cotton, containing 85 percent or more by weight of cotton, weighing not more than 200g per square metre classified under the headings 5208 and 5209 of the customs tariff, have also been banned.
Economic experts, however, warned the government to ensure that citizens do not get ripped off by local producers, who are known for inflating prices once imports are regulated.