Freight volumes drop as economy stalls

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© THE freight industry this year suf- fered a major drop in export and import volumes as the economy continue to decline, the Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) has said. SFAAZ represents all shipping, freight and forwarding, customs clearing, bondage ware- house operators, in-house clearing as well as importers and exporters in the country.

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The economy has been on a downward spiral with the major importers and exporters in the country hitting hard times due to a decline in industry capacity utilisation which dropped to below 40 percent due to lack of investment .

The situation has been worsened by the spiralling inflation, power and foreign currency short- ages which have handicapped the manufacturing sector

SFAAZ chief executive officer Joseph Musariri told the Daily News that these headwinds have not spared the sector which directly relies on economic activities in the country.

“Our sector operations are to a great extent a function of the industry capacity level in the country, to that extent, the sector’s performance has been largely subdued in 2019.

“Volumes have been low particularly for im- ports. There has been an increase in both imports and export controls. This also impacted negative- ly on customs clearance and resulted in numerous customs clearing delays.

“Lack of foreign currency and low industry activity were the major challenges. There are no achievements to talk about. Outlook for 2020 still bleak, there is not much change expected from this year,” Musariri said.

This comes as foreign currency shortages con- tinue to contract the trade deficit in the country.

Zimbabwe’s trade deficit narrowed to US$57,5 million after the country recorded a 24,9 percent growth in its exports to $299,5 million for the month of July 2019 up from exports of $239,8 million in June 2019 due to foreign currency shortages.

Similarly, most exporting firms are recording a decline in volumes as they fail to procure enough raw materials to manufacture goods.

While presenting the 2020 National Budget, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, however, said the government was targeting productivity and growth as well as export diversification and im- port substitution in order to stimulate growth.

“The government will support various export- ers by setting up an Export Revolving Fund with US$20 million as seed capital for the develop- ment of the sector with effect from 1 January, 2020,” he said.

“Implementation of the Zimbabwe National Industrial Development Policy and the Local Content Strategy will increase capacity utilisa- tion, strengthen industrial value chains, job creation and export-led industrialisation,” Ncube added.

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