By Nokuthaba Nkomo
In a development that bodes well for the festive season, retailers say they are now operating at near full capacity after a turbulent few weeks which saw panicking Zimbabweans besieging supermarkets for basic consumer goods.
The panic buying had been triggered by the government’s introduction of unpopular economic stabilisation measures — including the new two cents per dollar transaction tax.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Denford Mutashu told the Daily News yesterday that most supermarkets would have returned to full operating capacity by Christmas.
“Shops will be fully stocked for the festive season as retailers and manufacturers are working around the clock to ensure uninterrupted supply.
“Prices of basic commodities have also stabilised temporarily, owing to low consumer demand as people have stocks that they bought during the panic buying period. Prices should eventually fall further down from our projections,” he said.
Mutashu added that the recent suspension of the imports ban on basic goods had also played a significant role in the improvement of stocks.
This comes after the government removed the ban on the importation of groceries and other basic goods last month — in a desperate bid to address shortages and spiralling prices.
“All we are doing is increasing the supply of commodities … allow those with free funds, offshore funds to buy whatever they want to buy and bring it in. We did this in 2009 and it worked very well.
“The issue of protecting industry, which is an infant industry argument, would also help if this same industry could also ensure prices don’t escalate the way they have done.
“We care about jobs but at the moment you will agree with me that the issue of price increases is what we want to deal with right now as we approach the festive season, to make sure there is enough supply of basic commodities at reasonable prices and that there is no wage pressure,” Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said when he announced the lifting of the ban on grocery imports.
While acknowledging an improvement in stocks at most supermarkets, Buy Zimbabwe chief executive Munyaradzi Hwengwere appealed to consumers to consider local products first.
“Consumers need to realise the importance of buying locally-produced products as they contribute to the wealth of Zimbabwe and to job creation.
“On the other hand, local companies need to be much more aggressive in communicating the advantages of buying local. If we communicate properly with consumers, they will prioritise local goods, and together we can make Zimbabwe great again,” Hwengwere told the Daily News.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Sifelani Jabangwe also said local products were priced lower and had become even cheaper by a factor of 20 percent compared to imports.
“I believe local industry has the capacity to deliver the requirements of the economy.
“If adequate foreign currency is availed, we certainly will produce all the country’s requirements as we were doing before September,” he noted.
“If you look at most of our local products right now and compare them to what is imported as finished goods, you will find that we are at least 20 to 30 percent cheaper than imported products.
“So if foreign currency is availed to the manufacturing sector, we would out-compete the imported products, particularly right now,” Jabangwe added.
Zimbabwe remains in the grip of a huge economic crisis which has seen the country slipping back to frightening levels similar to the disastrous 2008 hyper-inflationary
The country has been experiencing acute shortages of foreign currency, which in recent weeks have triggered shocking price hikes, shortages of essential medical drugs and basic consumer goods.
As a result, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has recently come under growing pressure from disillusioned citizens over the poor state of the local economy — after having been feted in his early days in office for superintending over arguably the most peaceful elections since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980. DailyNews