Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE National Consumer Rights Association has called on the Government to punish errant businesses that continue increasing prices of basic commodities without justifiable economic reasons.
Retailers blamed the rise in prices of basic commodities on a number of factors among them price increases by producers, arbitrage and opportunism by few players allowed to open during the lockdown period.
This is despite the relative exchange rate stability following the introduction of the weekly Foreign Currency Auction Trading System in June last year.
National Consumer Rights Association spokesperson, Mr Effie Ncube, said the recent spate of price increases was pushing consumers to the corner.
“It’s extremely important that any rise in inflation should send a message to both the Government and business to be able to come together and arrest inflationary pressures and punish those that may be profiteering as a result of shortages occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“We must adopt ethical business practices and maintain them and punish those who violate them regardless of the times particularly at a time when the country is facing the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Government must ensure that there are no shortages in the market that will be outdone by demand, which in turn will drive up the prices of those commodities that are in shortage.”
Manufacturers have argued that businesses were responding to the general adjustments in various rates and fees across the economy hence absorption of these costs is reflected in the price increases as costs are passed on to the consumer.
This has been reflected in surging monthly inflation, which spiked by 4,22 percent in December last year and jumped 5,43 percent last month, according to the Consumer Price Index from the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (ZimStat).
On an annualised basis, ZimStat said prices of goods and services in Zimbabwe increased by an average of 362,63 percent between the period January 2020 and January 2021.
Consumers have since urged the Government and business to work together to ensure smooth business operations with adequate supply chains to maintain price stability.
“The continuous rise of inflation is not good as it eats into the value of the local currency. So, it’s important that we contain the rise in inflation,” said Mr Ncube.
Economist and member of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) monetary policy committee (MPC) Mr Eddie Cross has said the general increase in price, at variance with targets of the monetary authorities, was worrying.
He indicated that if the situation is not put under control, monetary authorities could be countenancing the prospect of missing inflation target for the year, which they had forecast to average less a percent (1 percent) for much of this year, for the monthly rate.
Monetary authorities project the annual inflation rate to close the current year below 10 percent on account of a stable exchange rate and efforts to rein money supply growth. — @okazunga.