Zimbabwe’s trade has been badly effected by the nation’s involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998-2002, which siphoned millions of dollars away from the economy. The chaotic land reform policies by the Mugabe regime, which evicted more than 4,000 white farmers, has made the country, which was formerly an exporter, become a net importer in goods, such as maize. Later efforts to return the farms were unsuccessful, as the land was found to be no longer productive. Finally, the Zimbabwe government gave up on calling back the farmers with an offer of long-term leases and conversely threatened all white farmers remaining in the country with jail sentences.
Zimbabwe Trade: Exports
Currently, Zimbabwe exports goods worth $1.09 billion (2009 est.). The previous year, this figure was $1.396. Zimbabwe currently exports the following:
Textiles and clothing
Zimbabwe’s biggest export partner is South Africa, which accounts for 32.4% of the exports, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo at 9.8% and Botswana at 8.8%. China is the fourth largest export destination, with a 5.6% share, while Zambia is at 4.8%, Japan at 4.5% and Italy and the US are at 4.5% and 4.3%, respectively.
Zimbabwe Trade: Imports
Since 2001, Zimbabwe, which was known as a ‘bread basket’, has been forced to import to meet domestic shortfalls. Statistically, Zimbabwe has not had any grain reserves for more than a decade, following the ill-fated eviction of white farmers. Despite predictions by President Mugabe of a return to ‘food self-sufficiency’ in 2010, with a maize output of 2.5 million tons (double that of the previous year), this staple crop of Zimbabwe has been badly hit by drought and currently the country faces total production of just 500.000 tons.
The country would need to import over a million tons to make up the shortfall. This jump in imports will adversely affect Zimbabwe’s requirement of a minimum $10 billion to reconstruct its economy. President Mugabe blames economic sanctions by western countries for sabotaging his country’s economy, but the US has categorically stated that the sanctions were only aimed at seven specific businesses and cannot be blamed for the sorry state of Zimbabwe’s trade.