Zimbabwe's clothing and manufacturing industry on Tuesday called for strict enforcement of control measures to curb an influx of imports that have negatively affected growth in the industry.
The sector used to employ 35,000 people at its peak in 1996 but this had declined to 6,800 due to various challenges including an influx of cheap clothing imports, lack of access to affordable capital and investment. As a result, the sector was currently producing about 20-25 percent of national demand, with the balance being imported.
This is compared to 75 percent of national demand that the sector used to produce in 1996.
Zimbabwe Clothing Manufacturers Association chairman Jeremy Youmans said there was rampant tax evasion by importers, incorrect application of duties by regulatory authorities as well as a general culture to prefer imports over local products.
"Our main threats remain the inability to control the imports of clothing and ensure the correct duties are paid," Youmans told a parliamentary committee on industry and commerce.
He said under-invoicing, abuse of trade agreements, corruption and dumping of second hand clothing was rampant and this was affecting growth in the sector.
Youmans urged the tightening of control measures to curb leakages, and proposed such measures as making sure customs authorities carry out physical examination on all clothing imports to curb the problem of under-invoicing.
He also proposed that all imports being cleared under a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Certificate of Origin or a South Africa-Zimbabwe Bilateral Trading Agreement Certificate of Origin be charged duty as a deposit pending verification of authenticity of origin.
He said this would help curb the enormous abuse of these protocols by importers.
"Hundreds of containers of clothing enter Zimbabwe each year, cleared under a SADC certificate, when the goods are seldom compliant," Youmans said.
He said the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority continued to accept SADC Certificates of Origin even when goods had labels saying, "Made in China", "Made in India", "Made in South Africa from Imported Fabric", and even some with no labels at all.
The SADC Certificate of Origin prescribes duty free access for fabric and garments manufactured within the bloc.