ZIMBABWE’S import bill rose 26% in the six months to July 31 this year, driven by firming demand for fuel and food.
Data for January is missing.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
The growing import pressures also saw the country’s trade deficit rising 27% to $1,48 billion from $1,15 billion in the comparable period, according to the latest trade report by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat).
The report shows that imports of goods and services increased at a faster rate than exports, which rose 24% to $1,96 billion from $1,58 billion during the same period last year.
Zimbabwe imported goods and services worth $3,43 billion, a 26% rise from 2017’s $2,73 billion.
The top six import drivers were ranked as diesel, which guzzled $523,6 million, followed by unleaded petrol ($267,8 million), electrical energy ($108 million), crude soya bean ($71 million), rice ($59,5 million) and durum wheat ($51,6 million).
The largest foreign currency earners were gold ($669m), followed by nickel mattes ($288,8 million), nickel ores and concentrates ($212 million), tobacco ($196,6 million), ferro-chromium ($142,8 million), chromium ores and concentrates ($57,5 million) as well as diamond ($45 million).
The value of merchandise exports has sustained an upward trend since a temporary sag in 2014, but this has been offset by high import pressures, driven by items categorised as consumption goods.
The contribution of consumption goods to overall imports, which had recorded a 19% drop in 2017 compared to the previous year on account of imposition of restrictive measures by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, has resurged, driven mainly by food and consumables.
Between February and July 31, 2018, top consumption goods imports included soya bean, wheat, rice, maize, bottled water, sugar, flour, soap, mobile phone handsets, electronics, vehicle spares, vehicles and generators.
The country’s high import bill is blamed on the decline in the domestic manufacturing sector output, depicted by low capacity utilisation since 2000 following land-related disturbances.