HARARE, May 7– Displacing imports which have flooded Zimbabwe on the back of a struggling manufacturing sector will be a huge challenge for local companies in the future, says Ministry of Industry and Commerce Permanent Secretary Abigail Shonhiwa.

She told the Senate Thematic Committee on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) here Tuesday that a lack of cheap, long-term finance remained a major obstacle for the recovery of Zimbabwe’s industrial sector, while noting that local industry, operating at below 40 per cent capacity currently, required more than 2.0 billion US dollars for retooling and working capital.

“A lot of products came in when industry was at its lowest,” Shonhiwa said. “Even when we will be producing, to displace those (Imported) products will be a challenge.”

It is estimated that more than 60 per cent of goods sold in local shops are imports.

Shonhiwa said local industry was still using antiquated equipment which made it costly to produce high quality and competitive goods.

She said local products needed to conform to global standards to be competitive. “With globalisation, we cannot afford to be inward looking,” she said. “We have to look at the region and beyond the country, the region, so we need to conform to international standards.”

Shonhiwa said the government would soon introduce in Parliament the National Quality Control Authority Bill, which seeks to establish an institution that enforces standards in the country. The authority would determine the quality and standards of both imports and exports.

Establishment of the authority was mooted in the days of the previous coalition government but was delayed because of bureaucracy.

Shonhiwa said the government put in place measures to stimulate production and revival of the local industry in the 2014 National Budget. Among such moves was the introduction of tariffs for a number of products which were locally produced.

Shoniwa bemoaned the porous borders which allowed even banned products to find their way into the country.