According to data released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), Zimbabwe posted a $3bn deficit in the 11 months to November, compared to $2,97bn in the previous corresponding period.
Trade figures showed that exports amounted to $2,5bn against $5,5bn imports, indicating the country’s continued reliance on imported goods as local industry remains depressed.
However, the government had predicted a $3bn trade deficit for the whole year. Exports in the period under review were dominated by gold, tobacco, nickel and diamonds, while imports comprised mainly of fuel, medicines, maize and vehicles, among others.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has previously said the trade deficit reflects, among other factors, the country’s over-reliance on foreign goods, most of which can be produced locally.
These goods include grains, foodstuffs, chemicals and pharmaceutical products, among others. In his 2016 National Budget statement, Chinamasa said the continued depreciation of the South African rand against the United States dollar had undermined the competitiveness of Zimbabwe’s exports.
The rand plunged to new depths yesterday reaching 17,9169 to the dollar with Zimbabweans increasingly preferring the US dollar over the South African currency in business transactions and as a store of value.
In the outlook, exports are projected to increase to $3,7bn this year up from $3,4bn projected in 2015. Chinamasa noted that imports were projected to marginally decline to $6,2bn in 2016 from $6,3bn, attributed to the measures that were put in place to manage the unfair playing field imposed by some cheap foreign products.
However, Zimbabwe’s exports to South Africa, the country’s largest trading partner, jumped 102% while imports to that country dropped 4%.