Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Reporter
Retailers say they are working on addressing the root cause of the current wave of price increases that has seen some basic commodities go up by more than 50 percent. Prices have been going up since the middle of the year but retailers last week effected more increases leading to an outcry by consumers. Most businesses blamed the price adjustments on the shortage of foreign currency in the economy. In an interview with The Manica Post, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR)president Mr Denford Mutashu said there was need to dig deeper to find out who is causing some of the wanton price increases.
“The emergence of price increases in the middle of the year was worrying and there was a lot of blame shifting by manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers with each blaming the other for the resultant increase in the retail price of goods. As retail industry, we will do our best to boost confidence of the consumers and address the malpractice of increasing prices wantonly,” he said.
“Businesses must remember that it is not good to shortchange the customer. Most basics went up but this did not correspond with salaries which remained stagnant. We will work on identifying the gap. We want to get to the bottom of the problem to see who is profiteering between the manufacturer, the wholesaler and the retailer and then try to address it.”
He said price control would not address the problem, but might actually cause more increases and urged Government to come up with policy measures that will monitor prices instead.
“If a product is controlled, it gives rise to a parallel market. So we need to address this from the supply side. If we have enough foreign currency, we can then see a natural readjustment of prices,” he said.
Mr Mutashu said businesses should not continue burdening consumers in 2018 but understand that the economic situation has put a strain on everyone’s pocket. CZR was also conducting outreach programmes to encourage all retailers to bank their money to ensure that the cash they get circulates in the economy.
“As a sector, we handle a lot of cash and we know that some retailers and individuals have not been banking their cash. We need to address this issue and encourage everyone to bank their cash. We will continue with outreach programmes next year for all retailers and consumers to bank money,” he said.
On local products that have become too expensive on the shelves, Mr Mutashu said enhanced competition would naturally bring down prices.
“Our local goods have not been faring well on the market and Government must work on boosting local production so that retailers can be able to sell local products at competitive markets on the shelves. Take cooking oil, for instance, Government should capacitate soyabean farmers so that they can adequately supply oil processors who will then produce cooking oil at competitive prices and the product will be available in the market at cheaper prices,” said Mr Mutashu.
There were shortages of cooking oil in October, which resulted in most retailers limiting the product to one per customer. The Government started talks on getting cooking oil producers to procure raw materials locally which would be dependent on increasing soyabean yields, as it provides the oil needed to produce cooking oil. Zimbabwe already produces an average of 30 000 tonnes of soyabeans annually, which is mainly used by cooking oil companies, against an annual demand of about 300 000 tonnes.