Zimbabwe’s exports to Zambia increased by 18,8 percent to $115,7 million in 2013 from $97,3 million prior year.
However, trade facilitation body Zimtrade said the trade gap between the two countries widened to $146,4 million as Zimbabwe imported $262 million more from Zambia during the year.
Zambia is Zimbabwe’s second-largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa.
In 2011, the trade gap stood at $132 million after Zimbabwe exported goods valued at $85,5 million to Zambia against imports worth $217,8 million.
Zambia currently exports foodstuffs — particularly maize, electricity and fertiliser — to Zimbabwe.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe exports fertiliser, coal, packaging materials, tobacco, fish, wood, furniture and tea among other products to Zambia.
This comes as Industry minister Mike Bimha recently projected Zimbabwe’s import bill to increase by more than $500 million to $8,3 billion by year-end on the back of a widening competitiveness gap.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstats), the country’s imports stood at $7,7 billion against exports of $3,51 billion in 2013.
During the year, the trade deficit widened to $4,19 billion from $3,6 billion in 2012 as the country remained a net importer.
“This expected import bill indicates that almost 68 percent of the products consumed locally will be sourced from outside Zimbabwe in 2014,” Bimha said.
“This shows that the nation is currently producing about 32 percent of goods on the market, which is not a sustainable position for any country in the world,” he said, adding that the current account deficit would continue to widen due to the fast growth in imports against sluggish exports growth.
Bimha said the increase in imports was largely driven by foodstuffs “that we not only produce, but also have the potential capacity to export”.
However, Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector is operating at 37 percent capacity due to viability challenges, including limited funding, high cost of borrowing, ageing plant and equipment, inconsistent power supply and weak distribution links.
But Bimha said local industry “should take advantage of the current suspension of some imports to stimulate production”.