Happiness Zengeni Business Editor
Government has so far issued over 3 100 import licences for goods worth around $23 million since June 20, three days after gazetting of import control regulations on various grocery and building material products.
On June 17, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce gazetted statutory instrument 64 of 2016 which featured products drawn from across the industry.
The products included Cremora Coffee Creamers (which is made by the local Nestle), Camphor creams, white petroleum jellies and body creams, plastic pipes and fittings, 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.
The Government also put controls on woven fabrics of cotton, fertilisers (urea and ammonium nitrate) compounds and blends. Tile adhesive and tylon, Shoe polish, Synthetic hair products. Second hand tyres have now been put under control after companies such as National Tyre Services had already lost market share to the cheaper alternatives.
Certain builderware products have also been added to the list and these include wheelbarrows, flat-rolled products, metal clad insulated products.
However the removal of the goods from the Open General Import Licence has been misconstrued as a ban on the importation of the products, triggering violent protests from cross-border traders and South African businesses who are resisting its implementation.
Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha reiterated that the intended purpose of the measures is not to ban the importation of the listed products but to regulate their influx into Zimbabwe.
“Importation will still be allowed where local production is not adequate to meet national demand. However where the local industry is producing adequate quantities, import licences will not be issued and companies will therefore be encouraged to source from local manufacturers.
“The SI is an interim measure meant to boost recovery of the local manufacturing sector which is under siege from imported products. This measure is expected to give the sector time and space to retool and boost production capacity.”
He added that the Ministry can only regulate but cannot ban imports.
“In actual fact, the products can still be imported but under an import licence.”
According to information availed to this publication shows that since June 20, 2016 up to date, the Ministry has issued more than 3 100 import licences for goods worth 47 228 923.20 South African rand and US$19 896 741.16.
The ministry facilitated the issuance of permits for importation of products that were already at the borders and those which had been procured and paid for prior to the enactment of SI 64 of 2016.
Minister Bimha also emphasised that the SI is not intended to affect individuals importing small quantities for personal use, inheritance goods and goods for returning residents.
“ZIMRA will provide communication and notices to this regard to ensure uniformity of application at all border posts.”
Minister Bimha said the products were placed under control after widespread consultations with industry.
“The Ministry established that the local industry has adequate capacity to produce the majority of the products which are being imported in large quantities such as mineral water, maheu, mayonnaise, canned beans and vegetables, jams, yoghurts and peanut butter.”
A monitoring and evaluation committee, whose members are drawn from both public and private sector has been put in place and held its inaugural meeting on June 24, 2016 where it was agreed that a monitoring and evaluation framework be developed.