Tawanda Musarurwa Senior Business Reporter
The country’s trade promotion body, ZimTrade has asked Government to decentralise the issuance of export permits as part of the latest round of Ease of Doing Business reforms.
ZimTrade manager for export development Mr Tatenda Marume said such a move was in tandem with Government’s drive towards devolution.
“A critical issue is the decentralisation of permits. In the spirit of devolution, some of our exports have already been devolved because if you look at it, areas like Chipinge are strong in terms of horticulture.
“But why do they have to come here and get an export permit in Harare when we know that almost all the exports of avocados and macadamia are coming from that region.
“So we are looking at a situation which begs for decentralisation, and probably with time if the permits can be accessed on e-platforms the better,” said Mr Marume.
Devolution essentially refers to the cascading of powers and responsibilities to lower levels of governance by a central Government.
Zimbabwe has made a commitment towards the devolution agenda, with Section 301 of the Constitution providing for Inter-governmental Fiscal Transfers from central to provincial and local tiers of Government to support devolution.
Observers contend that decentralisation of export permits will help boost the country’s horticulture sector, the majority of whose products are typically destined for exports markets, especially the European Union (EU).
Official figures show that Zimbabwe’s horticultural exports recorded significant growth last year, with over US$112 million worth of produce exported, up from $50,9 million previously.
The country’s horticultural products include flowers, passion fruit, fine beans, peas (mange tout and sugar snap, all berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries), baby vegetables such as carrots, baby corn, baby marrow, courgettes, chillies namely the birds eye, serenade among others, broccoli, citrus, avocado and macadamia nuts.
Mr Marume was speaking at the launch of the 2020 to 2021 Ease of Doing Business Reforms Programme last week.
He told the meeting that an uneven operating environment was making Zimbabwe’s exports uncompetitive, even at regional level.
“From a market survey we did of Botswana in 2017, we found that Zimbabwean products are at least 15 percent more expensive than what you would get from our regional competitors.
“Because of that competitiveness gap, our situation is so sensitive so any extra delay or any extra cost no matter how small you think it is, will probably affect our exports to the point where they are going to be non-existent in the future,” said Mr Marume.