Cabinet has set up a special inter-ministerial task force to look into the supply of essential commodities and price stabilisation as it moves to ensure retail shops have sufficient supply of basic commodities at reasonable prices.
However, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha insists that the move does not signal a return to price controls as was witnessed in 2007.
The special task force, which is under the chairmanship of the Industry and Commerce Minister, will be operating on a permanent basis to ensure that the country is not ambushed by profiteering business people.
The task force includes Finance and Economic Development Ministry, Tourism, Environment and Hospitality Ministry, Information Communication Technology Postal and Courier Services Ministry and Mines and Mining Development.
Others are: Home Affairs, Energy and Power Development, Small and Medium Enterprises Development and Cooperation, Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Ministry and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
“We have set up a special Cabinet task force on prices and the supply of essential commodities. It is going to come up with measures to resolve challenges in the short, medium and long term.
This does not imply that we will introduce price controls . . . we are just monitoring the price trends across the country to get a full picture of what is happening in the retail sector.”
Minister Bimha said he was awaiting the first draft of the combined task force report so that red flags are raised when necessary-especially for those whom foreign currency is being allocated to.
He however, said the informal sector would be difficult to monitor because of its complex setup.
Besides the special task force, the Industry and Commerce Ministry is also conducting checks of retail shops and wholesalers in major cities and towns to monitor availability of basic commodities and their prices.
The development came after panicking customers hoarded goods following social media claims — magnified by the private media — of an impending shortage of basic commodities and a spike in black market currency trading.
This triggered a sharp increase in the prices of basic commodities, though the situation is starting to normalise.
He said: ‘‘To ensure that we are not caught off guard, we are carrying some surveys in all major cities such as Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe and Mutare among others to check the availability of basic commodities in the shelves especially in retail and wholesale outlets.
“We are also looking at prices to find out what is obtaining in those cities on a daily basis and we also agreed with the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers to carry out their own surveys so that when we meet we compare notes.”
Dr Bimha said commodity prices still vary from place to place, though prices in general have normalised to the pre-panic buying period.
The committee is also working with Zimstats to check whether the prices were increasing at an alarming rate before the panic buying incident or after. On its part, Zimstat is expected to release a statement on how it calculates inflation figures on Monday.