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Cement, fertiliser imports liberalised

Import of cement by individuals and companies with free funds has been opened by Cabinet to curb the artificial cement shortages that have seen some products more than double in price and pushed up construction costs, Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere said yesterday.

Cabinet is also allowing farmers with free funds to freely import fertilisers direct as local suppliers have shortfalls as they battle to cope with the rising demand as more farmers plant more crops.

The minister was speaking after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

Even with duties, imported cement should be significantly cheaper than local products. With the major infrastructure development undertaken by Government and private constructors, particularly for Government orders, cement shortages had affected some projections in terms of project completion, timelines and an increase in the cost of projects.

Imports of cement were a preserve of those with needed import permits, but the latest move by Government to open imports follows dishonest companies in the industry accused of creating an artificial shortage to justify a steep increase of cement. 

In some cases, a bag of cement was now being sold at US$20 up from an average of the local equivalent of US$9. This artificial shortage was threatening to slow down the massive infrastructure development in progress. 

“Following reports of artificial cement shortage in the market and the spiralling prices, Cabinet has approved the import of cement by individuals and companies with free funds,” said Dr Muswere.

Also, Cabinet yesterday opened up the borders for the import of fertilisers by farmers with free funds.

Minister Muswere said Cabinet received and considered the report on the update on fertiliser supply, demand and price situation. The national yearly demand for fertilisers is now estimated with the major expansion in crops at 400 000 tonnes of basal and 380 000 tonnes of top dressing for both the summer and winter cropping seasons.

“The local fertiliser industry is having challenges and the supply gap is being covered largely by imports,” said Dr Muswere. 

The current fertiliser stocks held by the Zimbabwe Fertiliser Manufacturers Association and those under the Collateral Management Agreement indicate suppliers have challenges meeting the surging demand ahead of the imminent summer season.

“Meanwhile, the Government has approved that farmers import fertilisers directly from suppliers outside the country to augment local supplies whilst Government develops a long-term solution to the fertiliser challenges,” said Minister Muswere.

Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Mthuli Ncube, said Government will make the import of cement and fertiliser easy so as to ameliorate the current shortages.

“The shortage of cement and shoot-up of prices is affecting progress on some Government projects but not all; some are more cement intensive. Clearly we aim to increase supply via opening up the borders to whoever has free funds they can bring in cement. This will ameliorate this challenge.

“On the conditions for importation we will make it easy to get permission to import as long as you have free funds; we just want to make sure that there is access to cement.

“We have now allowed individual farmers to be able to import fertiliser using free funds. We just want to make sure the supply constraints are eased in response to the demand that you see in both fertiliser and cement.

“Given the prices that are coming out in the region and beyond in terms of the price of cement that is imported, even with the duty the cement will be cheaper than prices locally,” said Minister Ncube.

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