Re­tail­ers rip off pan­icky pub­lic

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Bu­l­awayo Bureau

RE­TAIL­ERS re­port­edly ripped off panic-stricken con­sumers by ar­bi­trar­ily hik­ing the cost of ba­sic com­modi­ties de­spite get­ting sup­plies from man­u­fac­tur­ers at nor­mal prices.

More­over, tar­iffs for ma­jor cost driv­ers in in­dus­try — fuel and elec­tric­ity — re­mained sta­ble.

Last week, many re­tail­ers in­creased prices of goods af­ter un­prece­dented trad­ing of the bond note against the United States dol­lar on the black mar­ket.

Some busi­ness placed mark-ups of more than 400 per­cent, while oth­ers de­manded pay­ments in for­eign cur­rency.

How­ever, the Re­tail­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Zimbabwe says lo­cally pro­duced com­modi­ties oc­cupy 62 per­cent of su­per­mar­ket shop shelf space.

Oil Ex­pressers As­so­ci­a­tion of Zimbabwe chair­per­son Mr Bu­sisa Moyo, who is the CEO of United Re­finer­ies Lim­ited, said it was baf­fling to see a 2-litre of cook­ing oil go­ing for

as much as $15.

“All mem­bers of the Oil Ex­pressers As­so­ci­a­tion of Zimbabwe are sell­ing at prices be­tween $3,15 to $3,50 and have rec­om­mended sell­ing prices of be­tween $3,70 to $3,99.

“We are in a multi-cur­rency sys­tem and the Gov­ern­ment has as­sured par­ity, so cus­tomers can set­tle in any form al­lowed un­der the multi-cur­rency sys­tem,” said Mr Moyo.

Although the sec­tor was not op­er­at­ing op­ti­mally, it was ca­pa­ble of sup­ply­ing the mar­ket, he said.

Cook­ing oil pro­duc­ers, he added, were blind­sided by “the surge in de­mand driven by ar­bi­trage and spec­u­la­tive be­hav­iour”.

Sugar was also tar­geted for preda­tory prices by op­por­tunis­tic re­tail­ers, with some re­tail­ers sell­ing a 2kg pack for $5. In a state­ment last week, the Zimbabwe Sugar In­dus­try called un­scrupu­lous re­tail­ers to or­der.

Op­por­tunists in the beef sec­tor also took ad­van­tage to charge ex­tor­tion­ate prices. It was the same for ce­ment as some shops up­wardly re­viewed prices.

PPC Zimbabwe MD Mr Keli­bone Masiyane said the com­pany had not changed prices since April 2012, and had been get­ting tremen­dous sup­port from Gov­ern­ment.

“We haven’t in­creased our pric­ing, which still re­mains the same as be­fore and at the mo­ment ob­vi­ously, with the sup­port of Gov­ern­ment, there is no in­ten­tion of ad­just­ing that and we urge all our cus­tomers to re­sist these high prices be­cause we do have some of our rec­om­mended re­tail­ers that are ac­tu­ally sell­ing at rec­om­mended re­tail prices,” he said.

Sino-Zimbabwe Ce­ment Com­pany, which con­trols a quar­ter of the ce­ment mar­ket, in­sisted sup­ply was nor­mal and old prices.

The com­pany said it was pro­duc­ing three types of ce­ment whose prices ranged from $7 to $11 per 50kg bag, payable via any le­gal ten­der.

Con­fed­er­a­tion of Zimbabwe In­dus­tries pres­i­dent Mr Sife­lani Ja­bangwe said the price in­creases by re­tail­ers were un­war­ranted.

“Es­pe­cially (for) ba­sic com­modi­ties, the prices should not have gone up be­cause the pro­duc­ers have not in­creased their prices. We are ac­tu­ally en­gag­ing with (the Re­serve Bank of Zimbabwe) for con­tin­ued sup­port,” he said.But Con­fed­er­a­tion of Zimbabwe Re­tail­ers pres­i­dent Mr Den­ford Mu­tashu said they were not to blame for price in­creases.

“Most of the price mad­ness is in the in­for­mal sec­tor, most of the in­for­mal traders have taken ad­van­tage of the shortages on the mar­ket to in­crease prices and if you check with most big for­mal re­tail­ers and whole­salers, they have main­tained their mark-ups,” said Mr Mu­tashu.

“They have not taken ad­van­tage of the pre­vail­ing sit­u­a­tion and are ac­tu­ally tak­ing their goods out to the mar­ket at nor­mal prices, so as long as a man­u­fac­turer or sup­plier has not in­creased prices, re­tail­ers and whole­salers are urged to main­tain nor­mal pric­ing.”

Mr Mu­tashu urged man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers to keep sup­ply lines open to avoid ar­ti­fi­cial shortages “which most peo­ple would take ad­van­tage of, hence the ar­bi­trage ac­tiv­i­ties that you would see aris­ing from spec­u­la­tive ten­den­cies”.

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