Monday, 27 April 2020

RETAILERS YET TO CUT PRICES


RETAIL outlets across the country are yet to reduce prices to March 25 levels in line with the moratorium on prices of essential foods, which was last week agreed on by Government and private players in the manufacturing and retail sector.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association (CZRA) has, however, assured that prices will drop before the end of the week.

The moratorium is part of measures to cope with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures required to contain the threat.

The moratorium follows recent steep increases in prices of basic goods, including bread, super-refined maize meal, cooking oil, flour and sugar.

However, despite multi-sectoral stakeholders having committed to the moratorium which will apply to all value chain players and is supported by a Cabinet decision of April 21, Chronicle observed that prices of basic commodities had not been reduced. In some shops visited by the news crew, the prices have actually gone up by relatively high margins.

Major shops in Bulawayo were yesterday selling bread for $30, a 2-litre bottle of cooking oil went up from $108 to $139, a 2kg packet of sugar which was last week going for $65 was yesterday priced at $71. A 2kg packet of flour was going for between $86 and $94 depending on the manufacturer and brand.

In Gwanda, shops also ignored the call by Government to slash prices with some having increased their prices.

A snap survey in the central business district revealed that some shops were selling a 2-litre bottle of cooking oil for $180, 2kg sugar ($86), 2kg flour ($95). 

However, despite the sharp price increase, consumers could be seen shopping in droves.

A resident from the town, Mrs Anita Moyo said she there was no reduction in prices.

“As you can see, I was just doing my shopping and I honestly don’t see any positive changes in terms of pricing. It’s hard to keep up with the prices of goods as they are going up almost every day,” she said.

Some shoppers were hoarding sugar for resale at inflated prices in the rural areas.

In Victoria Falls, shoppers who spoke to the Chronicle said leading retailers have actually increased prices.

Chronicle observed that a 2-litre bottle of Mazoe orange crush was being sold for between $106 and $110 in bigger supermarkets while smaller shops sold the commodity for $160. 

A 2-litre bottle of cooking oil is now $200 at smaller shops and tuck shops while at major retail outlets is was going for $140.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) southern region manager Mr Comfort Muchekeza, urged retailers to abide by the moratorium.

“First and foremost, it was made clear that this was not price control, but an agreement between Government and businesses. In our view as CCZ, we are saying that agreement should be followed as it is binding and we expect retailers to honour that agreement by reverting to the March 25 levels,” he said.

Mr Muchekeza said when he visited selected shops in the region, he noted disparities in the pricing system.

“Sadly, when I moved around checking prices, I noticed disparities and when I tried to negotiate with management in those shops which I visited, they indicated to me that their suppliers had also increased prices forcing them to also adjust. In one shop, a 2-litre bottle of cooking oil, which was being sold for $108 last week was yesterday going for $139,” he said.

“There are some players who have not been honest to the agreement and we therefore urge all parties to stick to the agreement and as CCZ, we want to see the full implementation of the moratorium on prices.”

CZRA president Mr Denford Mutashu said work is in progress with the full implementation of the moratorium expected to take effect this week.

“There is a lot of work to ensure supply side is uninterrupted and that work is crucial to all of us in the tripartite engagement. As we speak, I have just come out of a very successful meeting involving all parties and that is Government, manufacturers, retailers and consumers and that should see the full implementation take course this week,” he said. 

“The agreement has been implemented and it should be unmistakable that it is coming out in the spirit of good faith and we all rally behind the Honourable Vice-President (Kembo) Mohadi and Government’s pronouncements hence the ongoing work behind the scenes to ensure full implementation in letter and spirit.”

Mr Mutashu said the private sector agreed on the price moratorium as part of its contribution in fighting Covid-19 and ensuring that consumers get relief.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) national vice president Mr Joseph Gunda said there was no justification for retailers to continue increasing prices because manufacturers last increased prices way before the lockdown on March 30.

In coming up with the new measures, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce held a multi-sectoral meeting with various key stakeholders which included Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, CZR, National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe, Oil Expressors, Association of Zimbabwe, National Foods and Zimbabwe Sugar Sales, among others and agreed to a price moratorium and that shops should revert to March 25 charges.

Contacted for comment on Government’s position, the Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr Sekai Nzenza said she was in a meeting and referred questions to her subordinate, Mrs Constance Zhanje who is the Director of Research and Consumer Affairs in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

Mrs Zhanje had not responded to questions sent to her. Meanwhile, the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) for an average family of five in Zimbabwe reached $6 420,87 last month, reflecting a 21,3 percent rise from February’s $5 292,63, latest official data shows.

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), PDL represents the cost of a given standard of living that must be attained if a person is deemed not to be poor.

“The Total Consumption Poverty Line (TCPL) for an average of five persons stood at $6 420,87 in March 2020. This means that an average household required that much to purchase both food and non-food items for them not to be deemed poor,” said the agency.

According to Zimstat, TCPL is a combination of food and non-food items that an average family of five requires for it not to be deemed poor.

For an average family of five, the Food Poverty Line (FPL) last month was at $2 365,15 from $2 097,12 in February.

In the latest report, Zimstat indicated that FPL for one person in March stood at $473,03 showing a 12,8 percent increase from last month’s rate of $419,42. 

The TCPL for Zimbabwe for an individual was last month pegged at $1 284,17. This means that an individual required the above amount to buy both non-food and food items as at March 2020 not to be deemed poor compared to the February 2020 figure of $1 058,53.

The country’s month-on-month inflation rate stood at 26,59 percent in March, gaining 13,07 percentage points on the February rate of 13,52 percent.

Zimstat also indicated that the year-on-year inflation rate for the month of March 2020 as measured by the all Price Consumer Index stood at 676,39 percent while in February 2020, the year-on-year inflation rate was at 540,16 percent.

The spike in the rate of inflation shows a continued increase in the prices of goods and services on the market.

The volatility of the exchange rate has in the past been blamed for triggering price increases. Chronicle

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