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Zimbabwe consumers in a fix

by Staff reporter
18 Jun 2023 at 08:40hrs | Views
As Zimbabweans continue to battle with a failing economy, increases in  prices of basic commodities has pushed many into abject poverty.

A recent survey conducted by Standardbusiness indicated that prices of basic commodities such as sugar, cooking oil, roller meal, and soap have skyrocketed, leaving ordinary citizens struggling to make ends meet.

A 10kg bag of roller meal, a staple food for many Zimbabweans, was going for $45 477,82 on Friday at some Harare supermarkets such as Food World.

This was just one example of the exorbitant prices that have plagued the country.

A kilogramme of tomatoes was priced at $14 515,17 at Food World, a huge disparity from Pick ‘n' Pay  where it cost $2 995.

 A single bar of laundry soap was going for $18 855,24, while one would need a whopping $15 321,56 to buy one head of ordinary cabbage.

A 100ml Colgate toothpaste was priced at $14 515,17 at Food World and $7 599, 99 at Pick ‘n' Pay.

Most of these commodities were not available at OK Zimbabwe during the time this survey was conducted.

Some shops were accepting only the greenback for their goods.

As of Friday, consumers needed more than $300 000 to buy basic commodities like a 2kg packet of sugar, 2 litres cooking oil, 10kg roller meal, 1kg laundry bar soap, 500g washing powder, 100ml toothpaste, potatoes.

Most consumers interviewed said they were now unable to cope with the price hikes as their incomes were not going up.

"We are between a rock and a hard surface. We cannot do without these basic commodities but we cannot afford them," said a distraught consumer, who was shopping at Food World.

Effie Ncube, coordinator of the National Consumer Rights Association said consumers, especially those earning in local currency, were suffering.

"These prices also go with the different exchange rates, further compounding the difficult situation for consumers," Ncube said.

"In some supermarkets prices are now way beyond rich.

"This in turn is pulling more and more people into extreme poverty and hunger."

Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) Matebeleland region managing director Comfort Muchekeza, also weighed in saying that the cost of goods and services have gone beyond the reach of many consumers.

"We have been witnessing daily through price reviews, especially in the Zimbabwe dollar, that prices of goods have more than doubled in the last few days,"  Muchekeza said.

"As CCZ, we believe having different prices for the same product in different retail outlets is healthy competition, as long as the difference is within the acceptable percentage margins.

"This shows that retailers are not conniving to come up with one prize, they have different overheads and their prices should not be the same since we also do have price controls.

"The CCZ will get worried if the percentage difference is + 50%.

"The US dollar price component has been stable, although we still have some who are abusing it,"

The impact of these price hikes on ordinary Zimbabweans cannot be overstated.

Many are being forced to make tough choices, such as choosing between buying food or paying for essential services like healthcare and education.

Consumer rights groups have said the situation has become so dire urgent action is needed to alleviate the suffering of the people.

In its May 2023 report, FewsNet noted that the recent price hikes have made it difficult for the average family to purchase basic commodities.

The current situation has been characterised by shortages of basic commodities in several retail outlets while some wholesalers have been pushing their products to the black market.

"The depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar and high prices negatively impact the purchasing power of poor households and those earning in Zimbabwe dollar," the report reads in part.

"In the month of May, the Zimbabwe dollar prices on some basic commodities spiked by more than 100% although prices in foreign currency remained relatively stable."

In their response to these pains, the government removed import restrictions and duties on some basic commodities in an attempt to achieve price stability.

But these measures will not help consumers whose buying power has been severely weakened.

The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development noted in its latest report that the local currency erased nearly 40% in the parallel market in May 2023 from an average of $2 200 in April to $3 600 against the greenback.

Year-to-date (YTD), the Zimbabwe is down by a staggering 75% which is slightly lower than a 77% decline registered in 2022, Zimcodd noted.

In the official interbank market, the local currency lost 59% of its value to close May 2023 at $2 577,07, thus, giving a parallel market premium value of 40%.

Granular analysis further shows that YTD, the local currency, has erased 73% of its value in the interbank market – only 11 percentage points lower than an 84% decline witnessed in the whole of 2022, it noted.

"The prices are beyond the reach of many people, particularly those in the low-income bracket. It is a difficult situation that needs to be addressed urgently," another consumer, who identified himself as Marufu, said.

Source - Newsday