Merchandise trade rebounds from lockdown to notch growth

Zimbabwe’s total merchandise trade registered a 55,1 percent jump to US$659,8 million for the month of May compared to the preceding month having previously taken a huge knock.

The knock had been as a result of Covid-19 induced lockdowns, particularly for the months of March and April, which saw the movement of goods between countries being hugely curtailed.

However, as a response to “the new normal” of finding ways of allowing economies to function in spite of the danger posed by the novel coronavirus, most countries opened their borders for cargo movement though human traffic remains largely banned.

It is against this background that Zimbabwe’s merchandise trade registered a huge jump.

In an update to the market, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) noted that the biggest effect was as a result of the reopening of trade between Zimbabwe and its biggest trading partner — South Africa.

“Total merchandise trade for the month of May 2020 amounted to US$659,8 million, an increase of 55,1 percent, from US$425,5 million recorded in the previous month,” advised the central bank.

“This was mainly on account of increases in both merchandise exports and imports. The rise in merchandise trade was on the back of the easing of trade restrictive lockdowns by most economies including South Africa, the country’s biggest trading partner.

“Merchandise exports rose by 49 percent, from US$200,5 million in April 2020 to US$298,7 million in May 2020. The improvement in the country’s exports was largely on account of easing of lockdown measures,” reads the Economic Review Report for May 2020.

Exports in the said period were mainly dominated by minerals, particularly gold, nickel and platinum. From the agriculture sector, tobacco also came in strongly. The total contributions by the three minerals as well as tobacco accounted for about 80,8 percent of total exports.

With a total of 35,1 percent, South Africa was Zimbabwe’s biggest export destination for the month of May, closely followed by the United Arab Emirates at 34,3 percent. Mozambique took 9,1 percent of the exports.

The opening of trade corridors also resulted in exponential growth in the country’s imports which jumped US$361,1 million from US$225 million thus registering a 60,5 percent increase for the month of May.

“The rise in imports during the month under review followed increases in imports of unleaded petrol (38,8 percent); diesel (38,6 percent); and maize (25,2 percent). At 47,5 percent, South Africa was the country’s major source of imports followed by Singapore which stood at 14,1 percent and China 12,2 percent.

The jump in imports also resulted in the widening of the country’s trade deficit to US$62,4 million from US$24,5 million recorded in the previous month.–

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