Retailers have reportedly slowly started releasing goods they had withheld into the market following government’s decision to repeal Statutory Instrument 122 of 2017 that allows people to import basic commodities.
Government indefinitely suspended sections of Statutory Instrument 122 to deal with unscrupulous retailers, increase the flow of basic goods into the market and stem panic buying.
However, most prices of some basic commodities continue to increase, although there is hope that once the instrument is gazetted and importers start bringing in goods, prices will normalise.
In an interview with CITE, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president, Denford Mutashu, confirmed the situation in the country was normalising, as shops were now restocking to meet demand.
“We are seeing an improvement, local manufacturers that had been withholding supplies, they fear market would be taken away by those bringing in goods. We have also spoken to quite a number of retailers who are hopeful the situation will stabilise in about 2 weeks,” he said.
Mutashu, nonetheless expressed concern on panic buying saying it affected the stability of the market.
“The challenge in production is even if retailers supply goods, it is met with panic buying from consumers. We urge consumers to desist from panic buying as it only increases speculation and that instability shortchanges them,” Mutashu noted.
He, however, said the plus was market prices would go down in the face of competition.
“If someone has US$100 right now in Zimbabwe, I’m quite sure that person will go to South Africa where they can buy more units than here, given the uncompetitive pricing that does not favour the general public. If prices are still high, it would be unbeneficial for local products that will sit on shelves.
“As retailers we are hoping to improve the supply by inviting competition. If you recall even from 2015, a number of people were bringing in goods at household level so that reduces focus on expensive product on the local shelves. Manufacturers will then want to reduce the uncompetitive pricing and we hope that price reduction will stimulate the market. When market has spoken the manufacturers have to follow,” he said.
However, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, Sifelani Jabangwe, said it was too early to speak of Statutory Instrument 122’s impact on the market.
“Well, it’s too early to say because the law is yet to be gazetted and the impact would be felt once the gazette is there. Yes, there must be people bringing in goods but more people are waiting on the gazetting,” he highlighted.
The CZI president refuted claims that retailers were withholding on goods saying it was rather an issue of raw materials, which were in short supply.
“Companies were not withholding goods but the issue is they just don’t have raw materials. The concerns include shortage of foreign currency and the rate of the US dollar versus the bond note which is high. This was also coupled by no allocation of forex by the central bank. As industry we note there is no framework for such challenges and there is inadequate support,” he said.
Jabangwe added that industrialists believed goods from the local industry would be cheaper versus imports, as importers too would not escape from market forces at play.
“Imports would be cheaper unless people bring in goods for themselves but for the sake of trading, importers have to consider the black markets rates which are unfavourable. We still insist local industry must be strengthened so that it is able to support and meet demand,” he said.
The repeal of Statutory Instrument 122 saw import embargoes lifted on cooking oil, cereals, baked beans, cheese, coffee creamers, ice cream, margarine, yoghurt, peanut butter, potato crisps cement, fertilisers, steel roofing sheets, packaging materials, shoe polish, soap, synthetic hair, animal oils, body creams, among others.