Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE government has tightened the issuing of import permits to protect local industry against the influx of cheap imported manufactured products.
Zimbabwe’s import bill at $4 billion per year is posing challenges to the government and business in retaining foreign exchange.
An official from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce who declined to be named told Business Chronicle yesterday that the ministry did not issue import permits in the past six months.
“The ministry (Industry and Commerce) has tightened the issuing of import permits by not issuing out the permits in the past six months. The idea is to reduce the country’s import bill,” said the official.
“Approval of the import permits is now subject to availability of certain products on the local market and the capacity of local industries to produce.”
The tight measures are being buttressed by lowering of travellers’ rebate and increase on import duty for a variety of products.
Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha and his secretary Abigail Shonhiwa could not be reached for more details as they were said to be on leave.
Last year, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) said the country’s import bill had risen to about $18 billion over the last five years as the influx of cheap imported commodities mainly from South Africa and the Far East continues.
The industry lobby group implored the government to come up with robust measures aimed at reversing the trend.
Since the adoption of the multicurrency system in February 2009, Zimbabwe has become a net importer of finished goods such as clothing and footwear, food, automobile products.
Liquidity constraints and low capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector has worsened the situation.
Industry has since 2009 been struggling to improve capacity utilisation from an average of 10 percent before the liberalisation of the economy to competitive levels.
According to CZI manufacturing survey report released last year, capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector dropped to 34,3 percent from 36,6 percent in 2014.