Critical shortage of basic commodities looms in Zim as government bans price increases(26-06-07)

ZIMBABWE will soon face a critical shortage of basic commodities pending a government directive on Monday that all retailers reduce prices by 50 percent, business has warned.

A snap survey in the capital Harare on Tuesday by CAJ News showed that many major retailers took h

eed of the government directive and slashed their prices, resulting in a public rush for the commodities which were now unaffordable to many.

There was a hive of activity at leading retailers such as OK and TM Supermarkets following the price slash.

Many people said they were happy they were once again allowed to “shop” like they used to do in the past when things were still stable in the economically embattled Southern African country.

However, workers at the retail outlets sounded a warning that like Christmas, the development can be a once off thing.Unlike Christmas however, the aftermath of the government decision may plunge the impoverished citizens into further turmoil.

“I deal with the toiletries section and had nicely packed today’s stock in the morning only to be told to remove all Lever Brothers products.They are among other commodities targetted by the price slash.

“We can be happy and celebrate this development but it can be the end of the happy times.Chances are high the stock removed from the shelves today will be witheld until things stabilise, that is if they will stabilise,” said an attendent at Food World, a leading Harare retail shop.

In shops like OK, each buyer had to be limited to buying only two tablets of Geisha bath soap as the slash in the price from $120 000 to $60 000 saw many attempting to buy the soap in bulk in what was suspected to be attempts to hoard the product and offload it onto the infamous black market where exhorbitant prices rule the day.

Other commodities to immediately vanish from the shelves included a popular brand of orange juice concentrate known as Mazoe Orange.

On Monday, President Robert Mugabe’s government ordered the prices of basic goods to be slashed by 50 per cent.

Bus fares, bread, fertilizer, milk and many other commodities have shot up in price in the past days.

However, government ordered retailers, transport operators and manufacturers to revert to the prices they were charging on June 18 saying the increases were unjustifiable.

Said Industry and International Trade Minister, Obert Mpofu, “Government is aware that these incessant price increases are a political ploy engineered by our detractors to effect an illegal regime change against the ruling party Zanu PF,”.

The decree saw the price of bread falling from Z$55 000 to Z$22 000 while Mazoe Orange soft drink went down from $600 000 to $120 000 and fuel has been pegged at just Z$60 000 a litre, down from Z$180 000.Even the government mouthpiece, Herald, which recently hiked its price to Z$25 000 was instructed to charge Z$15000 per copy.

Although the government blames the price increases on unruly behaviour by business,economic analysts and business say the hikes have been necessitated by the massive weakening of the Zimbabwe dollar against major currencies on the black market.

Last week, the Zimbabwe dollar traded at Z$400 000 against the greenback compared to the official exchange rate of Z$15000:US$1.

In the past, government’s attempts to stabilise the economy through forcing business to slash prices has led to a massive shortage of the controlled commodities on the shelves of many shops while the same products emerge at the parralel market, famed for its cut-throat prices- CAJ News.

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