A senior Government official has chastised industry for continuing to clamour for statutory protection while profiteering through extortionate prices.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Deputy Minister, Vangelis Haritatos, also said the manufacturing industry was failing to take advantage of increased output in the agriculture sector, to expand production to help reduce the country’s import bill.
Responding to presentations by mining houses during a mining and agriculture breakfast interface organised by Minex at the just ended Zimbabwe Agricultural Show in Harare, Haritatos challenged industry to come to the table and help propel the economy to new levels.
“Why can you not be competitive? So let’s see now for the next five years until 2028 industry taking the bull by its horns and show us as Zimbabwe that we can make a top quality product at affordable price,” he said. “These miners, why do they need to buy in China, why does agriculture have to look outside of the country, we can look inside, we got our own resources.”
He said recent global geopolitical issues had shown Zimbabwe that it will run out of raw materials if it continued to rely on other countries. The country needs to therefore produce locally at regionally and internationally competitive prices.
“We only need ourselves, sanctions have taught us that we only need ourselves, we are so blessed as Zimbabweans,” said Haritatos. “I’m not even talking about human capital because each and everyone of you in this room are so educated that you know the answers to this country. I’m not even talking about our water bodies, I’m talking about our mineral wealth, we have a lot in the soil that can get us out of whatever challenges that we had in the past.”
He said Zimbabweans need to put the love of money and profit aside and focus on the greater good by being patriotic and value add.
“At some stage as business owners lets tighten our belts, let’s reduce our profit so that we can become more competitive. Think the long term, the Jews always say drop your price, you sell more so let’s drop our price, lets sell more and we do not have to ask the government to protect us from imports because the price would be so competitive that those who want to dump their products in our country cannot because they will say the product is of such good quality and the price is so good there is no point to export into Zimbabwe.”
With such a scenario obtaining, the country can start exporting and help the economy to go to heights never achieved before.
He said the excess grain following bumper harvests that the country has been experiencing over the past few years leading to the achievement of food self-sufficiency needed to be exported but the country needs to be competitive in its production to do so.
Fertiliser, seed and chemical suppliers were however, not making an effort to reduce the cost of their products as was the case across the border in Zambia to allow Zimbabwe to sell its products for less while achieving large volumes.
“What is more expensive about Zimbabwe, we are closer to the port so it’s not transport, is our labour more expensive? I don’t think so. You can pay a farm manager in Zimbabwe US$1 500 and he kisses your shoe, in Zambia you pay them US$8 000 and they still tell you it’s not enough
money so what is the question really? Where are we going wrong, I won’t answer that, I know the answer but some people will have to tighten their belts,” he said.
“If they don’t, it’s something unfortunately we can’t continue to protect local (business) if local is inefficient, we live in a global economy, let’s be regionally, internationally competitive, we want to be patriotic, we want to support Zimbabwean companies but if you are not competitive and that causes national economic instability what does that mean, should we continue to favour the few at the expense of our economy?”
“These are questions that we have to ask ourselves, so let’s buy local if local is competitive but let’s not buy local if local is 40 to 50 percent more expensive.”
While the agriculture sector was doing well in terms of going local, Haritatos said the same could not be said for mine houses whose claims of supporting local industry he described as outlandish.
He said the mining houses were indirectly importing by buying from local companies that would have imported their products.
“So let’s not lie to ourselves colleagues, let’s start telling the truth, our industry needs to come back on online, that’s the bottom line. We are importing indirectly because the invoice that you supply to ZIMRA says ABC private limited, a local company but if you go back to that company and say where did you get this product from, they say we got it from China.”