HARARE – Panicking retailers have warned that government’s move to ban kaylites will trigger price increases, with industry players pleading for a moratorium.
On Wednesday, the Environmental Management Agency (Ema), banned the use of polystyrene material, famously referred to as kaylites, because of its hazardous effect to health and the environment.
The ban is with immediate effect.
Last year, Ema proposed that a recycling levy be imposed on the carcinogenic kaylite in a bid to curb pollution by the non-bio degradable materials but had not made any headway.
The tipping point became the recent confirmation by a University of Zimbabwe study that the kaylites — commonly used in Zimbabwe’s fast food industry — cause cancer.
Yesterday, the Retailers Association of Zimbabwe (Raz) said the alternatives to kaylites — paper and khaki wrappers, cardboard box and fibre containers — cost more and will ultimately push the price of foodstuffs up.
“The adoption of the new packaging is welcome, though, there are concerns about the pricing . . . it will may push prices of take away food up,” Raz president, Denford Mutashu, said.
“We are hopeful our continued engagement with Ema and the Environment ministry will yield positive results and a win-win arrangement,” he said.
Mutashu added that the other major challenge was that retailers had stocked up massively on the kaylites and needed time to exhaust the inventory.
“The retail sector requests more time to clear huge stocks while also giving enough time to ensure reliable supply of alternative packaging to avoid serious business disruptions in this challenging economic environment where there has been huge focus on survival and revival both at manufacturing and retail sector level,” he said, further stating that the ban will decimate kaylite manufacturers.
“It will be unfortunate for those companies that invested in the manufacture of kaylites when the economy dollarised in 2009. It’s prudent that government policy also speaks to the realities as industry is facing many challenges at the moment.”
Kaylites cost around $3 for a hundred.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Sifelani Jabangwe said they were engaging government to come up with a cost effective solution, taking into consideration the tough challenges industry is going through.
“There is need for dialogue because there is no alternative packaging yet,” Jabangwe said.
“In South Africa, they are still using kaylites. We are just waiting for more information from our members, but what this means is we will have no packaging material for key areas.
“But people are not going to stop business, so we could have a new problem of use of other material which may not be safe and healthy.”
There was also uncertainty on the implementation of Statutory Instrument 84 of 2012 with polystyrene sector players whose kaylite products are not directly linked to food packaging.
Kaylite King, whose core business is manufacturing expanded polystyrene products for home and commercial use, appealed for clarity.
“We are not sure if we are also included in the ban. Initially, Ema visited our site and cleared us after establishing that all our products are recyclable. We will need to engage with the relevant authorities to ascertain our position,” Kaylite King general manager, Antonio Chou, told the Daily News.
While Ema said the law was effected after wide consultation, industry appeared unprepared to deal with the modalities of implementing the ban.
Yesterday, it was business as usual for many take-aways and restaurants in Harare’s central business district, who continued to package meals in the prohibited kaylites.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce chief executive Chris Mugaga felt the policy was most likely to hit the informal, less established players hard.
“ . . . it’s the informal industry that is going to be affected than anything else”, he said.
“My only fear is that the industry affected may revise their product cost upwards,” he said, adding that though, “I don’t want to believe prices will significantly increase unless there is an expensive alternative packaging”.