By Bernard Mpofu, HARARE, March 31 (The Source) – Zimbabwe has registered a nearly five-fold increase in exports to the European Union to $153 million buoyed by diamond exports to Belgium and reengagement efforts between the southern African nation and the bloc, latest trade figures from the International Trade Centre have shown.
While the country continues to have a trade deficit with the EU, imports on the other hand have been on a downward trend, dropping to $574 million last year from $1,75 billion in 2013 with fuel and machinery constituting the bulk.
Last year Zimbabwe held three diamond sales at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) in Belgium
Figures obtained from the ITC, a joint agency of the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations, show that exports to the EU grew to $153,321,000 in 2014 from $31,106,000 the previous year, with exports of the unprocessed gems making up the bulk of the sales.
Pearls, precious stones, metals and coins accounted for $125 million of the exports. Raw hides and skins came a distant second, accounting for $12 million, followed by salt, sulphur, earth, stone, plaster, lime and cement which contributed $3 million.
Diamonds are produced by five mines in the Marange diamond fields to the east of the country, as well as Rio Tinto’s Murowa mine in south central Zimbabwe.
Relations between Harare and the EU have been frosty since the bloc imposed sanctions on President Robert Mugabe, his inner circle and selected firms in 2002 over alleged rights abuses.
The bloc has gradually eased the sanctions since 2009 when the veteran ruler agreed to share power with the opposition after a disputed 2008 poll, and has continued to improve ties despite yet another controversial election in 2013 which extended Mugabe’s 34 year-old rule.
The EU eventually lifted the blockade in November last year, but maintains a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his wife as well as an arms embargo.