Business and Govt agree on reversing lockdown price increases

Business and government Wednesday, agreed on reversing with immediate effect price increases of basic commodities which shot up beyond the reach of many during the first 21-days of the COVID-19 lockdown, which has since been extended by a further 14 days.

Bread price, for example, rose by around 33 percent from an average $20 to $30, while cooking oil now costs anything between $120 and $160 for two litres, up from $70 depending on brand and the retailer.

Sugar is now selling for over $85 for 2kg while the price of refined maize meal is averaging $230 per 10kg bag although roller meal remains fixed at $70 per 10kg packet.

The food basket for a family of six rose from $4 656 in February to $6 660 as of April 11, according to a survey carried out by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

The two parties – business and government – said price increases reverted to where they stood on March 25 prior the announcement of the unprecedented lockdown.

In a televised meeting, government was represented by Vice President Kembo Mohadi, Industry and Commerce Minister, Sekai Nzenza, and other senior government officials.

The business community was represented by the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ), Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR), Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe, players in the baking and sugar manufacturing industries, among others.

“Zimbabwe has been experiencing escalating food prices, which is increasingly making it difficult for the consumer to afford basic commodities,” said Mohadi.

“The Ministry of Industry and Commerce in partnership with the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe have been continuously monitoring the food basket cost. When his Excellency the President ED Mnangagwa announced the lockdown, prices skyrocketed, increasing the difficulties for the general public to access food items such as bread, sugar, cooking oil, mealie-meal and flour.”

He said the government was left with no choice but to engage business, resulting in an agreement to revert to March 25 prices.

“There was a general agreement among the multi sectorial partners that the price increase particularly during the lockdown was speculative and unjustified,” disclosed the Vice President.

“So the multi-sectorial stakeholders committed to a price moratorium to operate based on the prices applicable on the 25th of March. The moratorium will also apply to all value-chain players.”

He explained further: “This was supported by a Cabinet decision on the 21st of April 2020 and will take effect immediately. This what the Minister of Industry and Commerce alluded to yesterday. We are all reverting to the prices as they stood at on the 25th of March 2020.”

Business representatives who included Tafadzwa Musarara (GMAZ), Denford Mutashu (CZR), among others, confirmed that they had indeed agreed to that, adding they would continue engaging government where there are challenges.

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)

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