As the country rallies towards achieving upper-middle income status by 2030, backed by a strong export-oriented economy, the 2021 performance figures released recently by ZimStat show huge strides towards achieving national targets.
According to latest statistics, country’s exports between January-December 2021 stood at US$6.03 billion, which is a 37.3 percent increase compared to US$4.39 billion recorded same period in 2020.
The US$6 billion-dollar mark, breached by local exports is the highest ever recorded figure.
The jump in exports, which exceeds the 10 percent growth as required by the National Export Strategy, follows spirited re-engagement drive undertaken by President Mnangagwa’s Second Republic complemented by export development and promotion events implemented by ZimTrade.
The growth, by no doubt, brings tangible evidence of the successes of the National Development Strategy, launched by President Mnangagwa in 2019, to focus on – among other things –promoting export products and export markets diversification.
As exports grew, the value of imports also went up by 33.3 percent to US$7.57 billion from US$5.68 billion in 2020, pushing the trade deficit up to US$1.54 billion during the period under review, from US$1.29 billion recorded during the same period in 2020.
Although some may record the increase in imports as an unfavourable development, it is encouraging to note that the bulk of imports were raw materials and capital equipment being channelled into the local the local manufacturing sector to boost production.
Big export movers
Exports from the cotton to clothing value-chain increased from US$43.9 million to US$102.2 million representing 132 percent increase.
The sector’s exports were mainly driven by cotton and cotton yarn exports which increased from US$29.1 million to US$85.7 million in 2021.
The export value of clothing and textile also increased from 14.9 million in 2020 to 16.9 million in 2021.
To increase earnings from cotton to clothing value-chain exports, there is need to step up efforts to value-add the raw cotton that is currently making the bulk of exports from the sector.
The arts and crafts sector has been recording positive exports growth for some time, with 2021 figures showing an increase of 56.6 percent, to US$8 million, from US$5.2 million recorded under the review period in 2020.
The increase was mainly registered in the exports of collections and collector’s pieces of zoological from US$4.1 million to US$6.6 million.
Exports of original sculptures and statuary, in any material also marginally increased from US$1.1 million to US$1.4 million during the period under review.
This growth shows the dividends of ZimTrade’s efforts in encouraging exporters in this sector after organizing for business linkages between local artists and a buyer from Germany in 2020.
Due to the huge potential in the sector, ZimTrade is also organizing for local artists to showcase their exhibits at the Birmingham Autumn Fair in September later this year.
Furthermore, exports from the horticulture sector jumped by 6.8 percent in 2021 to US$63.6 million, up from US$59.5 million recorded in 2020.
This was a recovery from a registered decline recorded in 2020.
Major contributors to the exports in horticulture were macadamia US$13.8 million, citrus US$10.9 million, leguminous vegetables US$4.2 million and fresh flowers US$3.2 million.
With the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan under implementation to stimulate export growth, indications are that local farmers will boost production, making it easy to meet requirements by buyers and growing demand.
Currently, there is a growing demand for organic foods among consumers, as more people are becoming health conscious and looking for products that are high in nutrients and low in calories.
Consumers are becoming more aware of foods containing synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and are switching to organic foods, which is driving the market growth of organic farming that is devoid of the chemicals used in crops.
Thus, by focusing on organic produce, there is potential for the horticulture sector to increase its contribution to national exports, ridding on improved production by smallholder farmers and rural communities.
Further to this, the manufactured tobacco exports increased by 4.5 percent from US$53.6 million in 2020 to US$56 million in 2021.
Cigars and cigarettes exports increased from US$26.3 million to US$35.4 million whilst exports of other manufactured tobacco and substitutes declined from US$27.2 million to US$20.6 million.
As the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development is spearheading the value chain strategy in the production of tobacco, projections point to a further growth this year.
The building and construction exports registered significant increases, from US$33.2 million in 2020 to US$43.8 million in 2021 translating to 31.7 percent increase.
Major exported products in the sector were of Unglazed ceramic flags, paving, wall tiles; mozaic cubes which increased from US$1.4 million to US$9.4 million in 2021, wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced US$6.5 million and ceramic building bricks US$4.4 million.
In addition, the household electrical and furniture exports increased by 23.4 percent to US$22 million in 2021 up from US$17.9 million in 2020.
The growth from this sector was mainly driven by exports of plastic articles US$7.1 million, table, kitchen or household articles US$5.6 million, electric water and space heaters US$2.3 million, and household aluminum articles US$1 million.
From furniture, the packaging and stationery sector also recorded an increase of 21.9 percent in exports, from US$7.6 million in 2020 to US$9.2 million.
Major exported products in the sector were cartons, boxes and paperboard US$4.3 million, paper and paperboard, corrugated, creped US$3.1 million and waste and scrap of paper or paperboard US$0.9 million.
Processed food exports declined by 48 percent from US$115.5 million in 2020 to US$59.1 million in 2021.
Major decline was recorded in the exports of sugar which dropped from US$75.5 million in 2020 to US$15.6 million in 2021.
Aquaculture exports also declined by 76 percent during the period under review from US$3 million to US$0.7 million.
The decrease can be attributed to the difficulties that the exporters of fish have been facing due to COVID-19 pandemic which has affected the cold chain supplies and most Asian countries have restricted access to market for the exporters of meat.
Same measure in fish industry is affecting exports of livestock and livestock products exports which declined by 39 percent from US$3.8 million in 2020 to US$2.3 million in 2021.
Hides and Skins exports marginally decreased by 2.7 percent from US$29.6 million in 2020 to US$28.7 million in 2021 during the period under review.
The decrease was mainly recorded in exports of other raw hides and skins, fresh or preserved, not tanned which recorded US$28.6 million from US$29.4 million recorded in 2020.