BULAWAYO, May 14 (The Source) – The Bulawayo business community has asked government to suspend its move to undertake pre-shipment standard compliance monitoring on goods destined for Zimbabwe, which is meant to reduce the importation of substandard goods, saying the programme would result in higher business costs.
The Consignment-Based Conformity Assessment (CBCA) is expected to be effective by end of this month and ensure that all goods imported into Zimbabwe comply with accepted quality standards and that their values are properly declared.
This will require all import consignments to be certified as being compliant in terms of quality and price at the point of shipment.
Certification will be done by French firm, Bureau Veritas, which was awarded a four year contract in February.
However, Association for Business in Zimbabwe (Abuz) on Wednesday said while standards need to be maintained, the programme will not address the situation but would immediately add costs which have to be passed on to the already over-burdened consumer.
“We respectfully submit that implementation should be immediately suspended pending full objective investigation by an impartial body, taking every stakeholder’s opinion into consideration, at the same attending to an impact assessment on the downstream implications to the economy. The overall effect on the economy could prove fatal if this is not carried out,” Abuz said in a statement.
It said while businesses are not against the importation of quality products and would not want the country to become a dumping ground of substandard products, but the imposition of Pre-Shipment Inspections on correctly registered, legitimate duty and tax-paying importers brings with it a raft of challenges and unanswered questions.
“It is understood that the steady decline in the manufacturing Industry has led to many companies subsidising their income by importing goods deemed necessary for their survival. The projected inspection programme if imposed in its current format will prove disastrous to these companies and will result in further job-losses,” it said.
Under the contract with Bureau Veritas, government will receive a five percent commission on fees paid to the French firm and Abuz said this financial consideration, which is borne by the importer, should then be considered as a form of taxation.
Local industries have been negatively affected by the smuggling and importation of cheap products into the country which are blamed for some company closures.
Products targeted by the CBCA programme will now go through various quality checks in that country of export before a license authorising their import to Zimbabwe is issued.
The categories of goods subjected to the programme include food and agriculture, building and civil engineering, timber and timber products, petroleum and fuel, packaging material, electrical appliances, body care, clothing and textile, engineering equipment, mechanical appliances, automotive and transportation and even toys.
Zimbabwe’s trade deficit currently stands at $3,3 billion. The latest available data shows that total imports for January this year increased by 10 percent over the same period last year to $538 million.