HARARE – Recent price hikes on basic food commodities and fuel are not only diabolic but also unjustified on the hard-pressed consumer.
A month-long survey by this paper revealed that profiteering mentality still exists among most retailers in the country as it seems it is only in Zimbabwe where prices of basic commodities go up without any justification or explanation.
The average price of two litres of cooking oil rose from an average of $3,00 in May last year to $3,50 this week.
Two kg of chicken now costs nearly $7 from an average of $5 less than three months ago while one kg of economy beef rose to nearly $6,50 from $4,50.
What gripes the majority of long-suffering Zimbabweans is the fact the country has been in deflation for the past two years and yet local companies — who clamoured to be protected against cheap imports — find it prudent to hike prices.
The rate of food price increases in the last two months alone is making life increasingly difficult for the millions of families already struggling to make ends meet under the weight of rentals, energy costs, taxes, interest rates and school fees at the expense of profiteering.
It is our firm conviction that some of the more recent price rises are not justified as some supermarkets and manufactures are clearly profiteering as figures show that food prices have gone up far faster than can be explained.
Profiteering happens when people make inappropriate margins along distribution system.
The priority for supermarkets is to get the appropriate stock on and off their shelves as fast as possible and increasing prices is not part of the game.
As such, retail outlets and local manufacturers need to explain to consumers why prices of goods have gone up when major inflation drivers had been stable for a long time.
We would like to urge the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and the long-forgotten National Prices and Income Commission to closely monitor the situation, control the undeclared monopoly, take corrective measures, arrest any cartelisation, particularly in cooking oil, milk and meat products, and mitigate any expected rise in prices of pulses.
Industry minister Mike Bimha should not hesitate to quickly review the import restriction list and call the profiteering firms to order.
When Bimha introduced Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, industry was quick to assure the nation that there would not be any price increases.
So where are the basic commodities price hikes coming from?
What has changed in the economy in the last six months to warrant such price increases?