By A Correspondent| Incessant power cuts currently crippling Zimbabwe have added to the growing distress facing the local textile industry.
The industry which is already facing threat of collapse due to the proliferation of cheap imports smuggled into the country by ‘runners’, informal traders and fashion botiques, is struggling to cope with load shedding caused by low output from Hwange thermal power station and Kariba hydro power stations due to obsolete equipment and low water levels respectively.
This has forced the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) to implement massive load-shedding that has seen the country going for between 12 to 18 hours without power.
The power blackouts have not spared the local industry which is being forced to operate at night or resort to alternative sources of power.
With winter approaching, blanket manufacturers would normally record brisk business but not anymore as runners are already stocking cheap blankets smuggled from South Africa, Tanzania and China in preparation for the season.
While the government appears clueless on how to end smuggling due to corruption at the ports of entry, the textile industry is now faced with another serious problem of power cuts.
Without electricity, local industries including textile have been left to fork out more to keep running resulting in increased costs of production.
A local economic analyst, Victor Bhoroma said power cuts had a devastating effect on local industries due to increased cost of production which will obviously make local products less competitive against cheap imports being smuggled into the country on a daily basis.
“The rolling power cuts for households and industries will have a devastating effect on capacity utilisation by industry,” he said.
Bhoroma said capacity utilisation is critical in addressing issues of economies of scale which would go up thereby forcing prices of local products upwards.
In an interview with a local weekly, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry ex-president Sifelani Jabangwe said intensified power cuts at a time when local industries were slowly returning to full-scale operations after COVID-19 was detrimental to economic development of the country.
“This will affect output unless ZESA deliberately ensures industry is excluded from load shedding,” he said.
Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), a subsidiary of ZESA announced a new US dollar power tariff of US12,21c/kWh for all exporters while other foreign currency earners would be billed at an average tariff of US10,63c/kWh.
According to ZETDC, the new tariffs are meant to improve the power supply situation and speed up the resolution of faults.
The hope among industry players including textile manufacturers, is that this will translate into improved power supply as failure would add a new headache to the textile industry in Zimbabwe.
While there is hope with Hwange Unit 7 and 8 reportedly coming on the national grid soon, this winter season will be another missed opportunity for local the textile industry.