JUST IN: Zimbabwe reintroduces duty on basic commodities

Zimbabwe's Finance bigwigs Mthuli Ncube and George Guvamatanga

In a significant policy change, the Zimbabwean government has reintroduced duty on a select range of essential goods, most of which are locally produced or packaged.

The move comes after emergency measures were put in place last year to allow duty-free imports in response to shortages and price manipulation. Effective immediately, duty will be imposed on several products, including cooking oil, maize meal, milk, sugar, rice, flour, salt, bath soap, washing soap, washing powder, toothpaste, and petroleum jelly.

While duty-free imports had been permitted for the past ten months, the situation has changed with the repeal of the emergency measures. It is worth noting that the majority of these essential goods are manufactured or packaged within Zimbabwe, with local brands dominating store shelves and only a limited number of imports available. Consequently, the concessions made last year have become obsolete.

The decision to reinstate duty was announced by Professor Mthuli Ncube, the Minister of Finance, Economic Development, and Investment Promotion. The repeal of duty-free status was formalized through the Customs and Excise (Suspension) (Amendment) Regulations, 2024 (No. 272), which were gazetted recently.

The initial objective of the duty suspensions implemented last May was to curb excessive price increases by enabling retailers and private citizens to import substitute goods. By restricting local manufacturers and distributors from charging prices higher than those of imports, the government aimed to stabilize the market. However, the situation has since changed, with local manufacturers able to provide these essential products at competitive prices. The duty-free imports were one of several measures introduced by the government to address exchange rate volatility and combat what was referred to as “price madness.”

With the reintroduction of duty on essential goods, the government aims to strike a balance between supporting local industries and ensuring price stability. By reinstating duty, they seek to promote the consumption of locally produced goods and reduce reliance on imports. The decision aligns with broader efforts to strengthen the country’s economic stability and enhance self-sufficiency in critical sectors.

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