Government has come up with a cocktail of measures to avert potential food shortages during the festive season and early next year. These new procedures came after panicking customers hoarded goods in September following social media claims of an impending shortage of basic commodities and a spike in black market currency trading.
Since then Government has set up a special Cabinet task force and an inter-ministerial committee to investigate retail shops and to ensure the country has sufficient supply of basic commodities at reasonable prices.
Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Mike Bimha told Business Weekly that consumers should not panic buy ahead of the festive season as all essentials are in adequate supply.
“We have prepared a comprehensive report for both Cabinet and Parliament about the state of basic commodities supply in the country and its sustainability in the future.
“Further to this report, we are in discussions with the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe to come up with a recommended price list of certain basic goods just like Dairibord, Coca-cola and other products have recommended prices.
“If goods breach recommended prices, consumers have the right to dispute that price as it will be out of their net,” said Dr Bimha.
He said this recommended price schedule does not mean that the Government is reintroducing price controls through the back door as price recommendations is a worldwide practice.
Instead the authorities want the market to regulate itself to prevent the disappearance of goods on shelves.
“People of Zimbabwe must understand that we are not carrying out price controls, we won’t do that.
“We want the market to regulate itself. After the recent panic buying we engaged retailers and those we are prioritising in terms of the forex priority list and asked them why they are increasing prices when they have their stake every week.
“We did not hire police to reduce prices but retailers have reduced after seeing that consumers are not buying due to the fact that they have already stocked at home hence sales were down for a while.
“The RBZ will continue to provide forex for the manufacturing industry to buy critical raw materials so that there is an adequate supply of goods in retail shops and wholesales.
“Our consumers should not panic as there will be enough basic commodities throughout the festive season and beyond.
“If the worst comes to the worst we will import those goods in short supply to ensure that our shelves are not empty at any given time,” said Dr Bimha.
He said given the laid groundwork, essentials prices will stabilise soon.
Cooking oil 2-litre bottles were around $5,99 in September only to come down to $4,50 at the beginning of October but now are around $3,60 which is a marginal increase from where they were before the panic weekend.
CZI believes that the panic buying was due to inadequate confidence by the market. It’s president Sifelani Jabangwe said: “As industry we agreed that the only way to get that confidence back to the market is to replenish the goods which hoarders and speculators had cleared from the shops. This is what our CZI membership are doing.