Business says the suspension of import controls is promoting excessive hoarding of cheaper basic goods from abroad.
The government made this move in order to promote the availability of cheap commodities in the country, at the time the local currency is losing its purchasing power on daily basis.
The warning by business comes amid speculation that the controls might be re-imposed soon this year.
Suspension of duty on selected commodities among them luxury and public service buses, ammonium nitrate fertilisers, fertilised eggs for hatching and powdered raw milk among other critical goods, came into effect recently, as published in the Government Gazette.
Some of the goods on the exemption list include raw wine all for approved importers and manufacturers. This is contained in Statutory Instrument 279 of 2018.
Customs and Excise duty exemptions have been given time-lines with fertilisers and wines suspension running for 12 months from January 1 while fertilised poultry eggs for hatching have six months duty suspension.
On the eggs issue, the decision is meant to ensure recovery of the poultry sector that was recently hit by Avian Flu.
“The principal regulations are amended in section 9Q, suspension of duty on powdered milk imported by approved importers,” reads part of the gazette.
One of the major producers, Dairibord’s chief executive officer Anthony Mandiwanza, hailed the move saying it was vital in growing the milk industry’s production capacity and meeting customer demands.
“The extension of duty suspension on powdered milk raw materials is a welcome development as it will assist us in procuring raw materials at base cost. The move will grow our throughput as it helps us improve production capacity especially where we have a very high demand,” said Mandiwanza.
The waiver has also been extended to fertiliser, suspending duty on imported ammonium nitrate fertilisers by approved importers for the next 12 months.
This instrument comes amid calls to capacitate the local fertiliser industry by the Government in order to meet local demand in the long run with an overall intent to cut the ever ballooning import bill.
Chemplex Corporation chief executive officer Tapuwa Mashingaidze, commended the move saying it was critical for the farming industry to produce better yields. He, however, implored authorities to encourage procurement of local fertilisers in order to capacitate local firms that were being affected by critical shortage of foreign currency.
“The suspension of duty on fertiliser imports is a welcome development considering that we are a country that is striving to grow production in agriculture sector. We, however, continue to advocate for fertiliser procurement (by farmers and retailers) process to give priority to local fertilisers producers,” said Mashingaidze.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared the country’s future economic development will be anchored on agriculture, mining and tourism among other key sectors, calling for the need to support these economic enablers.
Presenting the budget last year, Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube, hinted on suspension of customs duty on specified buses for tour operators.
“In order to assist tour operators capitalise their fleets, I propose to extend suspension of duty on 75 new buses of a carrying capacity of eight to 55 passengers including the driver,” said Minister Ncube.
On fertilisers imports Minister Ncube; “In order to enhance competitiveness of locally manufactured fertiliser, I propose to ring fence duty free importation of raw materials.
“I further propose to ring-fence importation of 10 000 tonnes of Ammonium nitrate oil fertiliser under suspension of duty for a period of twelve months from January 1,” he said.
Added Minister Ncube; “In order to consolidate the gains realised by local industry, Government will renew facilities that have expired, subject to set conditions and, in some cases expand the list of inputs and beneficiaries of rebate facilities.”