French firm to help with import standards as Zimbabwe battles with cheap imports

zimbabwexxThe Zimbabwe government has hired a French based firm, Bureau Veritas, to enforce import standards, while it works on enacting consumer protection and standards laws. Current statistics indicate that in the first six months, the import bill stood at $2.9 billion, with critics saying it was an indication of failure by government sponsored programmes to promote local products. Industry and Commerce minister, Mike Bimha told business leaders that Veritas has been approached to inspect goods coming into the country. “We will bring the services of an international organisation called Bureau Veritas, which is very much experienced in pre-shipment, in terms of making sure that the goods that come into this country meet health and safety standards,” he said. Bimha did not elaborate when Veritas would commence its work or how much it would be paid. The Industry and Commerce ministry has since drafted the Consumer Protection Bill aimed at protecting consumers, as current pieces of legislation protecting them are scattered across various ministries. The country is battling cheap imports, mainly from China and neighbouring countries, while consumers have often complained of being sold substandard goods. Zimbabwe’s import bill is forecast to hit $8,3 billion this year from $7,6 billion in 2013 against exports of $4,4 billion and $5 billion, respectively. Several import ban measures on selected products, including poultry and sugar have failed to reduce imports, but have had the opposite effect, triggering increased smuggling. Currently, there is heightened advocacy from the private sector for heavy government controls on cheap imports ostensibly to promote domestic production. There are fears that Zimbabwe is gradually being turned into a dumping ground for clothing, footwear and food items like chicken mainly coming from Asia and South Africa. However, with industry capacity utilisation at 39.6 percent, market watchers say a heavy hand on imports will result in either improved local sales and production, or will only create shortages. *Source theafricareport]]>

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