Clothing, textile exports decline 58%

ZIMBABWE’S clothing and textile exports registered a 58% decline to US$17 million between January and August this year due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, data compiled by the country’s export trade promotion agency, ZimTrade, show.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

The sector exported goods worth US$42 million during the same period last year.

Lockdowns imposed by governments across the world from March to fight the pandemic grounded transportation firms and led to the closure of businesses for most of this year.

Consumer demand was also affected as people were asked to stay at home to avoid being infected by the virus.

ZimTrade said although the country recorded an increase in total exports to US$2,56 billion between January and August 2020, the trade performance could have been better had sectors like agriculture, clothing and textile and arts and crafts not been affected by Covid-19.

“The largest drop was in the clothing and textile sector, which registered a 58% decline from US$42 million between January-August 2019 to US$17 million during the same period this year,” ZimTrade said.

ZimTrade said cotton exports declined from US$23 million in 2019 to US$6,7 million, while footwear exports also declined.

“A coordinated approach to addressing some of the challenges faced by players in this sector could help improve its contribution to national exports,” the country’s exports promotion body said.

“Production enablers for the sector, such as water, energy and transport, form significant proportions of their cost drives when they are available and the provision of some of these is irregular, unreliable, costly and risky, hence causing most businesses to be price-uncompetitive both in the domestic and foreign markets.”

During the period under review, exports of agriculture inputs and implements dropped from US$16 million to US$11,7 million while horticultural sector exports registered a decline of 11,7% to US$46,4 million.

Major export products were tea at US$12,1 million, macadamia nuts at US$11,4 million and citrus fruits, which were valued at US$7,6 million.

The country also exported leguminous vegetables valued at US$4, 7 million and pineapples that were valued at US$2,3 million.

“The decline in the horticulture sector was largely due to the decline in the exports of macadamia nuts and tea,” ZimTrade said.

However, the export promotion body said the recently approved Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan would boost private sector investment into the sector once implementation begins.

This in turn would improve production, which is a prerequisite for growing exports.

Furthermore, arts and crafts exports decreased by 54% to US$2,8 million.

“The global shutdown as a result of Covid-19 negatively affected exports from this sector (which was) further dampened by restricted movement of tourists, who represent some of the largest buyers of Zimbabwean art collection,” ZimTrade noted.

To improve on the performance of the sector, ZimTrade is developing export clusters in Matabeleland North and Mashonaland West to increase capacities among local sculptors.

ZimTrade said support from Zimbabwe’s diaspora community in creating market linkages would also go a long way in growing exports from the sector.

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