Prices of most basic commodities have during the past two weeks been increased by more than 100 percent thereby pushing the prices beyond the reach of most consumers. What is worrying is that this price hike madness is likely to be with us for some time.
The basic commodities whose prices have been increased by very high percentages include mealie-meal, cooking oil, bread and sugar. Most employers have not increased salaries including the retailers that have increased prices by shockingly high percentages.
The civil servants who were lucky to get some cushioning when Government increased their salaries by up to 76 percent last month are, however, crying foul because of the exorbitant prices of basic commodities. They have therefore called on the Government to come up with a mechanism that safeguards the value of salaries.
Zimbabwean consumers have since last October been subjected to incessant price hikes by retailers that are after profiteering through charging exorbitant prices. It is unfair when retailers peg their prices based on the parallel market rates when salaries of consumers have not been adjusted even based on the low official market rates.
The unjustified price increases are therefore imposing hardships on workers and their families as most of them can no longer afford basic commodities. There is urgent need to put measures in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous businesspersons that want to profiteer through charging exorbitant prices.
The same retailers that are profiteering by charging exorbitant prices have been pestering Government to protect them against stiff competition from cheap imports. Most people have now resorted to buying these imports on the pavements because the prices are lower compared to what retailers are charging.
Commodities such as washing powder, body lotion, rice, cooking oil, cereals, peanut butter and other such commodities are being imported from South Africa and supplied to vendors that are selling them on the streets at low prices. The challenge, however, is the prevailing shortage of cash as most of these vendors demand cash.
There has been a push for Zimbabweans to consume local products but retailers and manufacturers are shooting themselves in the foot by charging exorbitant prices for these local products. Consumers are therefore left with no option but to buy cheap imports.
Our industries can only be supported by Zimbabweans buying locally produced products and this is only possible if industry and retailers price their products correctly taking into account the issue of affordability.
We have repeatedly implored businesses to uphold business ethics and we have also called on them to be sensitive to the plight of their customers. It is a fact that businesses can only thrive if people consume their products and services.