‘We’re on top of price situation’
CHALLENGES that emerged on September 22⁄23, 2017 are now coming to an end. We have been monitoring the situation in terms of availability of products and price hikes, and have established that most products are back on shop shelves.
There are no shortages or factories complaining about failing to produce.
Yes, there was a time when factories were getting insufficient foreign currency, but that was not unique as foreign currency availability has always presented challenges.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has now provided enough foreign currency to oil expressers to import the raw material (crude oil) required to go through the festive season.
However, we continue to monitor production and supplies.
In the event of demand-supply gaps, we will allow importation of that product so as to avoid shortages.
We will do the same for any other manufacturers who struggle to meet demand.
We are, nevertheless, happy that the RBZ has made arrangements for oil expressers to import crude oil to convert into cooking oil.
The problem area, really, has been with cooking oil; but the prices have been going down.
Other product prices have not receded to pre-September 22 levels, and measures are now in place to deal with this. For instance, we are meeting producers, wholesalers and retailers regularly to compare notes, zeroing in on who exactly is behind the arbitrary price hikes.
These interfaces have shown us that it is the retailer who at times hikes prices and not the producer.
So, we are coming together to pinpoint actual problem areas and flag them out.
In addition, we have engaged the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe to monitor prices and disseminate information on recommended retail prices for all products.
We also want these recommended prices published regularly so that consumers become aware of exact product prices as published.
We are not bringing Home Affairs (for enforcement) into the matter, but engaging the parties involved; and prices have been going down since that engagement started.
Police are not required in that regard. I don’t think it will get to that as engagement is a step in the right direction.
The report of the Technical Committee (on Prices) generally calls for continuous engagement, and ensuring consistent supply of goods.
The supply side has always been covered, but people reacted to unsubstantiated social media claims.
And we have to deal with social media to ensure people know the truth.
One cannot say everything on social media is false; we can, in fact, harness it to tell the true story.
The Cyber Security Ministry will actually help us give consumers correct information so that they know exactly what is taking place in terms of supply and prices.
We believe if we communicate the right kind of information adequately, we won’t encounter the same problems.
After going through the report, the Ministry (of Industry and Commerce) made recommendations, some of which we are still scrutinising and implementing.
This coming week, I will deliver a Ministerial Statement on the matter before Parliament as Cabinet has already approved all recommendations.
We are working to make sure all basic commodities are placed on the forex priority list so that we will never have shortages.
It’s one of the recommendations of the report. Dr Mike Bimha is the Minister of Industry and Commerce, and Chairman of the Special Cabinet Committee on Prices