Govt, private sector agree price freeze on basic goods

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Farai Mabeza
Government has announced a price moratorium on basic goods after prices skyrocketed following the start of the COVID-19 lockdown at the beginning of April.
The moratorium was announced by Vice President Kembo Mohadi who blamed the increases on speculative practices.
“There was a general agreement amongst multi-sectoral partners that the price increase, particularly during the lockdown was speculative and unjustified. The multi-sectoral stakeholders committed to a price moratorium to operate based on the prices which were applicable on the 25th of March,” Mohadi said.
The moratorium will apply to all value chain players and will take effect immediately.
Mohadi said that the agreement was reached after the Ministry of Industry and Commerce held a multi-sectoral meeting with various stakeholders which included Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers, National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe, Oil Expressors Association of Zimbabwe, National Foods and Zimbabwe Sugar Sales among others.
In a survey done by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the value of the consumer basket as at 7 February 2020 was $4, 656 but by 11 April 2020 the same amounted to $6,660.84.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe chairperson Phillip Bvumbe described the price freeze between the government and the private sector as a gentlemen’s agreement which was not legally binding.
“The agreement between the parties in terms of the moratorium is currently a gentlemen’s agreement but should, I think, the parties not be forthcoming then Government might be forced to come up with a statutory instrument. But at this stage I think because of the previous experiences we have had where you enforce something legally then we are bound to have shortages.
“But since it is a gentlemen’s agreement, where are there are problems there is need then for a subcommittee to be formed because there will be challenges in terms of the supply side. Those challenges must be addressed in an objective and holistic manner taking into account the cost drivers in the particular sector,” Bvumbe told The Anchor.
He said they would monitor the impact of the price freeze on both prices and availability of goods.
“Let’s monitor the reaction but my fears are that there will be some who might resist but lest see what happens,” Bvumbe said.
Industry and Commerce Minister Sekai Nzenza, said that Government was currently working on a possible stimulus package for industry but could not divulge more details about the package.
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