ZIMTRADE, the country’s trade development and promotion body, has urged government to expedite the operationalisation of a trade protocol on the export of fresh produce with China in a bid to increase exports to the Asian country.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
Speaking during the ZimTrade exporters’ conference held in Harare last week, the organisation’s CEO Allan Majuru said they were looking for export opportunities in China, one of the biggest economies in the world.
“We are also exploring the Chinese market through the China International Import Expo, under the Belt and Road Initiative, which also aims at increasing imports from developing countries that will be held in November,” he said.
“Citrus and other fresh fruits and vegetables have potential in China, but there is need for us to expedite the process of a trade protocol in the export of fresh produce,” he said.
In December, Majuru said, Zimbabwe would participate at the Intra-Africa Trade Fair (IATF) in Egypt.
“We will be working with key stakeholders to facilitate Zimbabwe’s participation at this fair,” he said.
Majuru said government needed to address issues pertaining to regulations and procedures.
“There is urgent need to improve efficiency and quality of infrastructure at border posts. Exporters have advised us of how trucks are spending days at entry points for clearance processes to be concluded,” he said.
“As we might all be aware, this inefficiency increases the cost of doing business.
“A case in point is that of citrus farmers along the Limpopo River in Beitbridge, who, in our engagements, highlighted that transporters are charging them R8 000, as standing time, a punitive cost to export competitiveness compared to their counterparts on the South African side of the Limpopo.”
Majuru also lamented that the unsustainable current account deficit, saying this was negatively affecting the country’s economy and was contributing to foreign currency shortages.
In 2017, Zimbabwe’s imports were $5 billion while exports were only $3.5 billion.
“Our interactions with industry show that delays in processing of foreign payments for importation of critical raw materials are causing unnecessary production disruptions. As a result, industry is losing export orders, further compounding the situation,”Majuru said.
“The good thing to note is that some of these issues are being addressed with the recent policy pronouncements.”
According to the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency, export product concentration is around commodities such as minerals (gold, nickel, ferro-chromium and industrial diamonds) and unmanufactured tobacco with value-added products contributing less than 15%.
“This has the effect of exposing us to price volatility associated with commodities. Value addition is the answer and as ZimTrade, this is where our mandate lies in terms of promoting the export of value-added goods and services,” Majuru said.
He said in their endeavour to develop and promote exports, ZimTrade had this year facilitated the participation of Zimbabwean exporters in trade fairs in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, South Africa and China.
ZimTrade also undertook two market researches in Botswana and Dubai, which showed that there were a number of opportunities for Zimbabwean businesses to increase exports.
Later this month, ZimTrade is organising an Outward Seller Mission to the Tete province in Mozambique and will also facilitate the participation of Zimbabwean companies at the Global Expo in Botswana with the aim of further exploring opportunities identified in that market.
“We are aware of the calls by exporters from the clothing sector, for support to explore the American market and wish to highlight that this issue will be followed through so that Zimbabwean manufacturers can benefit from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act,” Majuru said.
“Also, this time next year, if all goes according to plan, Britain is not going to be part of the European Union, hence we need to lobby for a bilateral trade arrangement with them.”