Local manufacturers of basic commodities can now heave a sigh after the government has reinstated duty on a list of essential items that had been excluded from the national duty regime.

The restoration of duty on Cooking Oil, Maize meal, Milk, Sugar, Rice, Flour, Salt, Bath Soap, Laundry Soap, Washing Soap, Washing Powder, Toothpaste, and Petroleum Jelly is with effect from February 1, 2024.

Government made these amendments through Statutory Instrument 10A of 2024, citing the need to address rampant price increases and limited supply in the formal market.

“IT is hereby notified that the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion, in terms of section 235 as read with section 120 of the Customs and Excise Act [Chapter 23:02], has made the following regulations:-

“These regulations may be cited as the Customs and Excise (Suspension) (Amendment) Regulations, 2024 (No. 272).

“The Customs and Excise (Suspension) Regulations, 2003, published in Statutory Instrument 257 of 2003 (hereinafter called “the principal regulations”), are amended by the repeal of section 91 (Suspension of duty on Cooking Oil, Maize meal, Milk, Sugar, Rice, Flour, Salt, Bath Soap, Laundry Soap, Washing Soap, Washing Powder, Toothpaste and Petroleum Jelly) with effect from 1st February, 2024,” read parts of SI.

The suspension of duty was initially implemented as a temporary measure.

Treasury in May last year scrapped duty on the selected items after shops hiked prices of basic food items in response to the rapid weakening of the Zimbabwe dollar against other currencies.

Finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga, said the decision to restore duty allows small and big businesses, rather than general consumers, to import these commodities and resell them in US dollars.

“While the intention is to protect the general consumer from the price increase, the general consumer will not be importing.

“It’s small businesses and big to some extent who will be importing and then retailing in US dollars,” said Guvamatanga.

The decision to restore duty on the essential items will negatively impact the informal sector which has found business in importing the good.