Source: US$50m spent on sugar imports | The Sunday Mail Jul 3, 2016
Africa Moyo in Victoria Falls
Zimbabwe imported crude oil and sugar worth at least US$50 million in the first half of 2016 — a clear indication of the agricultural sector’s poor performance last season. Authorities attribute this low agro-output to drought, lack of long-term or affordable financing and inadequate farming skills, and are prioritising these factors.
A1 farmers are operating between 98 and 100 percent capacity utilisation while their A2 counterparts who have much larger farms are operating at between 45 and 50 percent.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce annual congress here last week, Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora said there is need to support local production.
“Our ministry has put production at the top of its priority list. Several factors affect production – tenure, funding and also lack of knowledge by beneficiaries (of land reforms).
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe deputy director (International Banking and Portfolio Management), Mr Ernest Matiza said huge sums will continue going to imports if agro-production remains subdued.
“We really need to reduce imports and increase production, even coming up with import-substitution. Agriculture is the main source of inputs for our industry. From January to June 2016, imports of crude oil, which is used in cooking oil (production), were US$40 million.
“Crude oil can be acquired from people farming soya beans. So far, we have also imported sugar worth US$10 million, and this is something we can produce locally. Therefore, we really need to reduce imports.
“The Reserve Bank has been saying, ‘Let’s look at our import priority list.’ This is a short-term measure because, as you are aware, we are operating in a dollarised economy. . .”
Mr Matiza said apart from having an import priority list, it is important for Zimbabwe to engage the IMF and World Bank over fresh funds.
Last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa travelled to France for that dialogue, among others.