THE Government has scrapped import permits and licenses for fertiliser and other key products, including confectioneries and construction materials.
Statutory Instrument 6 of 2024, published in the Government Gazette, removed import permit requirements for several products, including data and network cables, floor polish, batteries, candles, tiles, adhesives and sealants, detergents, biscuits and fertilisers.
Import permits and licenses can often lead to higher prices for consumers. By removing these requirements, this could reduce prices for the listed products, analysts say. It was not immediately clear why the permits and licences had been removed.
“The agricultural, construction, and ICT sectors are all important drivers of economic growth. By making it easier for businesses to import the goods and services they need, the Government could help to boost these sectors and create jobs,” Carlos Tadya, a Harare-based economist told The Herald Finance & Business.
While supportive of the overall initiative, some critics cautioned that the removal of permits and licenses could inadvertently increase competition from imported goods, given the existing presence of small businesses in certain product categories.
“While the move is generally positive, we must tread carefully in sectors where our local SMEs have a foothold,” Mr Tadya said. “Unfettered imports could easily squeeze them out, hindering job creation and domestic economic growth.”
Some analysts believe lifting import permits for fertiliser will allow farmers to prepare for the next season adequately through better planning and early stockpiling.
The analysts said the removal of agricultural import licenses was seen as a boon for farmers, enabling them to plan and stock up for the next planting season.
“With import hurdles cleared, farmers can now secure crucial agricultural supplies like fertilisers and machinery well in advance, optimising their planning and preparing for the upcoming season,” Takesure Guri, an agronomist, said. “Farmers can strategically stock up early, setting the stage for a more productive harvest.”
To combat critical shortages and prevent price escalation, the Government in November allowed imports of fertiliser by traders and individuals until the end of 2023.
Amid renewed hopes for better-than-expected yields thanks to the sustained rain, the Government extended the import dispensation. The initial dry spell raised concerns about a potential decline in yield, but most parts of the country have been receiving rainfall since mid-December.
The recent rains have significantly reduced those concerns and boosted hopes for a good harvest.
The period October-December brought concerns about the potential harsh drought for Zimbabwe, with early forecasts predicting substantially drier conditions than usual. However, the country has since seen moderate to below-normal rainfall, which aligns with the projection.