Current Trade News

Zimbabwe has so far raked in US$23,3 million from the sale of 9,5 million kg of tobacco in five days, a 152 percent improvement compared with last year's US$9,2 million from 3,9 million kg, statistics released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) show.

An estimated 90 percent of the tobacco delivered came from the contract crop, with just 10 percent being sold on the auction floors.

Buyers offered a highest price of US$6,30 per kg at the contract floors, while the highest price at the auction floors remained at US$4,99 per kg.

In the same period last year, tobacco generated US$9,2 million from the sale of 3,9 million kg.

At this stage, 133 408 bales have been laid and 129 704 sold as compared with 54 060 laid during the corresponding period last year, with 52 705 bales sold during the same period last year.

The majority of farmers in the country are currently producing tobacco under contract farming.

The contract farming arrangement sees tobacco farmers being guaranteed a timely supply of inputs and, in some cases, funds to pay workers.

The farmers are given technical advice because the contractors want their crop grown according to market requirements.

Last year, production of the golden leaf reached 184 million kg. And this year TIMB has projected that production could reach 200 million kg due to the positive rainfalls.

The Herald.

New York and Nairobi — Last week Ministers of Finance met virtually at the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to discuss policies to tackle the pandemic and socio-economic recovery.

But a global study just published by the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University, international trade unions and civil society organizations, sounds an alert of an emerging austerity shock: Most governments are imposing budget cuts, precisely at a time when their citizens and economies are in greater need of public support.

Analysis of IMF fiscal projections shows that budget cuts are expected in 154 countries this year, and as many as 159 countries in 2022. This means that 6.6 billion people or 85% of the global population will be living under austerity conditions by next year, a trend likely to continue at least until 2025.

The high levels of expenditures needed to cope with the pandemic have left governments with growing fiscal deficit and debt. However, rather than exploring financing options to provide direly-needed support for socio-economic recovery, governments--advised by the IMF, the G20 and others--are opting for austerity.

The post-pandemic fiscal shock appears to be far more intense than the one that followed the global financial and economic crisis a decade ago. The average expenditure contraction in 2021 is estimated at 3.3% of GDP, which is nearly double the size of the previous crisis. More than 40 governments are forecasted to spend less than the (already low) pre-pandemic levels, with budgets 12% smaller on average in 2021-22 than those in 2018-19 before COVID-19, including countries with high developmental needs like Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Liberia, Libya, Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The dangers of early and overly aggressive austerity are clear from the past decade of adjustment. From 2010 to 2019, billions of people were affected by reduced pensions and social security benefits; by lower subsidies, including for food, agricultural inputs and fuel; by wage bill cuts and caps, which hampered the delivery of public services like education, health, social work, water and public transport; by the rationalization and narrow-targeting of social protection programs so that only the poorest populations received smaller and smaller benefits, while most people were excluded; and by less employment security for workers, as labor regulations were dismantled. Many governments also introduced regressive taxes, like consumption taxes, which further lowered disposable household income. In many countries, public services were downsized or privatized, including health. Austerity proved to be a deadly policy. The weak state of public health systems--overburdened, underfunded and understaffed from a decade of austerity--aggravated health inequalities and made populations more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Today, it is imperative to watch out for austerity measures with negative social outcomes. After COVID-19's devastating impacts, austerity will only cause more unnecessary suffering and hardship.

Austerity is bad policy. There are, in fact, alternatives -even in the poorest countries. Instead of slashing spending, governments can and must explore financing options to increase public budgets.

First, governments can increase tax revenues on wealth, property, and corporate income, including on the financial sector that remains generally untaxed. For example, Bolivia, Mongolia and Zambia are financing universal pensions, child benefits and other schemes from mining and gas taxes; Brazil introduced a tax on financial transactions to expand social protection coverage.

Second, more than sixty governments have successfully restructured/reduced their debt obligations to free up resources for development. Third, addressing illicit financial flows such as tax evasion and money laundering is a huge opportunity to generate revenue. Fourth, governments can simply decide to reprioritize their spending, away from low social impact investments areas like defense and bank/corporate bailouts; for example, Costa Rica and Thailand redirected military expenditures to public health.

Fifth, another financing option is to use accumulated fiscal and foreign reserves in Central Banks. Sixth, attract greater transfers/development assistance or concessional loans. A seventh option is to adopt more accommodative macroeconomic frameworks. And eighth, governments can formalize workers in the informal economy with good contracts and wages, which increases the contribution pool and expands social protection coverage.

Expenditure and financing decisions that affect the lives of millions of people cannot be taken behind closed doors at the Ministry of Finance. All options should be carefully examined in an inclusive national social dialogue with representatives from trade unions, employers, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders.

#EndAusterity is a global campaign to stop austerity measures that have negative social impacts. Since 2020, more than 500 organizations and academics from 87 countries have called on the IMF and Ministries of Finance to immediately stop austerity, and instead prioritize policies that advance gender justice, reduce inequality, and put people and planet first.


The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), together with the African Union (AU) Commission, launched a new continent-wide framework on Thursday, to boost trade and improve food security.

According to the UN agency, the initiative will help "unlock the potential" of the agricultural sector to contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth across the continent, and promote the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement that began in January, establishing the world's largest free trading area, in terms of countries participating.

"The framework provides a timely catalyst for the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems, sustainable development and prosperity in Africa", FAO Assistant Director-General Abebe Haile-Gabriel, AU Commissioner Josefa Sacko, and AfCFTA Secretary-General Wamkele Mene, said. in a joint statement.

"A key priority is the pursuit of industrial transformation policies and programmes that support the private sector to add value to African exports, compete with imports from outside Africa and expand opportunities for job creation", they added.

Benefits for all

FAO highlighted that the framework will help the national formulation of strategies, policies and programmes, which will not only promote intra-African trade but also develop agricultural value chains, so that all stakeholders - including farmers, agri-businesses, women and youth - can reap the benefits of the new trading bloc.

Formally known as the Framework for Boosting Intra-African Trade in Agricultural Commodities and Services, the initiative covers trade policy, facilitation, infrastructure and finance; productive capacity; market integration; and cross-cutting issues, such as market information systems.

Though African countries import about $80 billion worth of agricultural and food products annually. Only a small portion of that trade is within the continent, with intra-African agricultural trade is estimated to be less than 20 percent.

Source: Un News

Malawi government, through the Ministry of Trade, has defended its decision to export maize, claiming the move will not affect food security of the country.
Government has since started issuing maize export licences to allow the economy off-take excess stocks of maize from last year's harvest for export and to create storage for this year's harvest.
Secretary for Trade, Christina Zakeyo, claims that the exportation of maize will not affect the country's food situation, thanks to a projected bumper maize harvest for 2020/2021 farming season following the successful implementation of the Affordable Input Programme (AIP).
Zakeyo, therefore said the maize export licences will only be issued to exporters with proof of verifiable maize stocks from the previous agricultural season. "The licences to be granted will have a validity of three months from the date of issue.
"The exporter will be required to undertake a commitment to inform the Ministry about the export proceeds received after 180 days from the date of export," said Zakeyo. Under the Control of Goods Act of 2018, maize is a controlled commodity and the export of which requires a licence.
Traders intending to export maize will have to submit applications for the licence to the Ministry with the following supporting information--physical address of the business and warehouse where the maize is stocked; business registration certificate or certificate of incorporation; business residence permit or permanent resident permit for non-Malawians; identification document and a letter of authority to export from the Ministry of Agriculture stating source of maize, quantity and destination country.
In February this year, Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe disclosed that this year's maize harvest projection is at 4 million metric tones. Lowe equally attributed this to AIP as well as good rains this country is receiving.
He also said government has already sourced 150 thousand metric tons of fertilizer for the next AIP. According to him, government wants to roll out the program for the 2021/22 farming season in good time.
Lowe claimed that currently the ministry is ironing out problems that affected the program in the 2020/2021 rainy season.
The expansion of trade among sub-Saharan African nations holds the key to faster growth and development to the benefit of all its citizens. To unlock this potential, countries will have to focus more on trade facilitation, including the simplification and modernization of trade procedures.
Sub-Saharan African countries have the lowest trade among themselves compared with other regions. Intra-regional trade is estimated at about 10% compared with 40% in North America and 60% in Western Europe.
Among the factors holding back growth are non-tariff trade barriers. Excessive document requirements, burdensome customs procedures, inefficient ports and poor infrastructure add to the cost of exporting and importing goods. Firms benefit more from a 10% reduction of these costs than from a similar cut in tariffs.
This is why there has been a major focus on reducing red tape and other non-tariff trade barriers.
Implementation of trade facilitation measures can reduce the cost of moving of goods across borders by between 12.5% and 17%. It can boost exports too by making it cheaper for firms to import materials they can transform into finished products for sale in other countries.
Trade facilitation can also create an enabling environment for foreign direct investment. And red tape harms poor producers the most, so trade facilitation is especially beneficial for small- and medium-sized businesses. This is very important in the case of African countries.
A number of African countries have been implementing measures aimed at easing the flow of goods across borders. A guide to what needs to be done is set out in the Trade Facilitation Agreement earlier signed by World Trade Organization members in 2013. The agreement outlines measures for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods at borders.
A few sub-Saharan Africa countries have started working towards the implementation of a "single window" system - a collaboration between all state entities involved in the regulation of international trade.
For example, Ghana initiated a single window operation in 2002 following concerns about slow and expensive border procedures. It standardized information through a single administrative document for all its customs operations though implementation is not yet fully functional and automated.
Another measure involves the creation of one-stop joint border posts. An example of this is the Chirundu border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Since traffic only stops once for the country being entered, the time it takes to cross the border is greatly reduced.
A few sub-Saharan Africa countries have started working towards the implementation of a "single window" system - a collaboration between all state entities involved in the regulation of international trade.
After the implementation of the one-stop border post, trucks are electronically scanned - which takes much less time. Another initiative, the African Union Border Program, initiated in 2007 with the goal to have all borders in Africa delimited and demarcated by 2017, has also made progress. But there is more that countries can to do to ease the flow of goods across their borders.
They should harmonise procedures. These should be made simple and then they should be aligned - first within regions and then across the continent. The alignment should be backed by appropriate legal and institutional frameworks.
Countries should also be standardizing documents through a national and later regional single window system. This will resolve challenges with bureaucracy, corruption and delays in processing trade documents.
The capacity of customs should also be enhanced in terms of electronic data management. This will improve risk management and revenue generation. For example, the Philippines' computerized customs management systems reduced corruption in its bureau of customs.
Zimbabwe now has the capacity to produce enough fertilizer adequate to cover an annual cropping season. Over 100 000 tonnes of top dressing and basal fertilizer for 100 000 hectares of land under winter cropping is currently being manufactured. This manufacture of fertilizers is expected to significantly reduce the import bill.
Speaking during a tour of Zimphos and Chemplex yesterday, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza said the visit was a clear testimony to local production which is in line with the Second Republic's thrust of local content policy and import substitution.
"Our objective is to increase local production therefore, creating employment. What has also happened is testimony to the effectiveness of the foreign currency auction system," she said.
"ZFC is now able to import the raw materials that they need to produce this fertilizer. There is also a synergy between the manufacturing sector and the agricultural recovery programme," said Minister Nzenza.