RBZ struggles with forex for drug imports

HARARE - The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) can only remit $2 million a month to medicine importers, amid revelations that the pharmaceutical companies are struggling with payments to foreign suppliers.

This has resulted in shortages of critical drugs required in the day-to-day running of hospitals and clinics, with pharmaceutical companies warning of an all-time low stock of critical medicines, amid an intense battle to source foreign currency to import the drugs.

RBZ governor John Mangudya told the Daily News this weekend that foreign currency was in short supply.

“As the Reserve Bank, we only get between 25 to 30 percent of the foreign currency, and 70 to 75 percent is in the market. Part of that 30 percent goes to productive imports, fuel, medicines, raw materials and others. The demand for that 30 percent is high,” he said.

“Weekly, we give between $400 000 and $500 000 to the importation of medicine. We are not really sure what the demand is but we would be expecting this to be topped by the market,” Mandudya said.

“Medicines are on the priority list and we provide foreign currency on a weekly basis. The phenomenon is caused by the fact that the demand for foreign exchange is higher than its supply. There is also a great need to ensure that we improve on the efficiency on the distribution of the scarce foreign exchange resources.

“That is why we are working on the resuscitation of CAPS — the largest pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Zimbabwe — so that we will not have to use more money importing the medicines.”

With government failing to adequately supply hospitals with medicines, institutions are now flocking to private suppliers.

Health minister, David Parirenyatwa, said his ministry was in continuous talks with Mangudya to see how the foreign exchange situation could be resolved.

“We are in negotiations with Mangudya so that they prioritise pharmaceutical drugs.

“They have prioritised other things but prioritisation of pharmaceutical drugs can also be done so that not only does it help supply our own people, but it helps local industry to get raw materials to manufacture for the country, that is how it’s going to be solved ,” Parirenyatwa said in an interview.

Last week, the country only had two week’s supply of atracurium, a major anaesthetic drug used in addition to other drugs for muscle relaxation during surgery. The short supply had resulted after the relocation of drug supplier GSK which pulled out of the Zimbabwean market last year.

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