Harare – Zimbabwe recorded a trade surplus against South Africa for the first time in many years after the beleaguered Southern African nation imported less that it exported, official figures have shown.
According to figures from Zimstat, Zimbabwe imported goods worth $476.1m from neighbouring South Africa in the three months ended 31 March 2016. This was against exports to South Africa amounting to $504.6m for the period under review. As a result for the first time in years, Zimbabwe has recorded a trade surplus of 5.98% against its neighbour.
Analysts however said the official figures are misleading given the high levels of smuggling at Zimbabwe’s borders with South Africa.
Early this year the Zimbabwe Poultry Association (ZPA) claimed that the country had “imported about 1,5 million kilogrammes of chicken valued at $800 000 from South Africa between January and September last year, figures not captured in official statistics.”
In an industry update, ZPA chairperson Solomon Zawe said of particular concern was the fact that statistics reported by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) were not being captured by local authorities, suggesting that illegal imports were continuing unabated.
Early this year a 400 carton contraband of cooking oil valued at R30 000 was intercepted by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and members of the Ferret team at Beitbridge border post.
Other analysts however said there are many issues to explain the reduced imports from South Africa.
“The depreciating rand is a contributing factor because Zimbabweans can now buy the same number of goods with a much lesser amount,” said analyst Tendai Manzvanzvike adding that reduced aggregate demand in the country, new requirements for importers, and troubles in the external payment systems also contributed to the lower import figure.
Overall Zimbabwe’s trade deficit narrowed 17.7% after imports came down 17% to $1.32b from $1.6b in the same comparable period last year. Exports were at $625.96m, a decrease of 12.6% from $716.6m last year.