Scrapping of SI 122 hailed

25 Oct, 2018 - 00:10 0 Views
Scrapping of SI 122 hailed Mr Busisa Moyo

The Chronicle

Auxilia Katongomara/ Kudzai Chikiwa, Chronicle Reporters
RETAILERS and Industry have welcomed Government’s decision to scrap SI 122 of 2017 to allow people to import basic commodities saying it will halt the prevailing price hike madness.

However, businesses said the move must be temporary to protect Zimbabwe from being a “tuck-shop” country.

Retailers and manufacturers blame each other for the price hikes and say the lifting of the statutory instrument would force those holding onto goods to release them to the market.

The decision to amend SI 122 was reached by Cabinet at its sitting on Tuesday to allow companies and individuals with offshore and free funds to import specified basic commodities that are in short supply due to the speculative behaviour of local retailers and panic buying by consumers.

Bulawayo residents also welcomed the development saying it protects them from unscrupulous retailers who are charging exorbitant prices even for locally manufactured goods that do not require foreign currency. The residents however said most of them will not be able to cross the borders to buy commodities because the forex is expensive on the black market.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Matabeleland Chapter president, Mr Joseph Gunda said the lifting of the ban must be temporary to address shortages and price manipulation by retailers.

“The lifting of the ban should not be blanket. It should be in the interim to bust the hoarding of local basic goods. It’s supposed to bust this hoarding by retailers and allow local industry to recover as it receives more foreign currency allocations from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe,” said Mr Gunda.

Last month, he said, the manufacturing industry alleged it had not received foreign currency from RBZ resulting in depressed production but however that has not been the reason why basic goods are not on the shelves.

Mr Gunda said the local industry was producing sufficient products but the panic buying and behaviour of some unscrupulous retailers had resulted in artificial shortages.

“We are producing but the problem is with retailers that are profiteering by hiking the prices. We have not raised our prices for cooking oil or cement but the prices on the market are astronomical, unbelievable. Somewhere along the line we have to bust it and one way of doing it is to put a cap or restriction for specific goods that have created havoc on the market. The products that are not affected must remain and this must be a temporary measure,” said Mr Gunda.

“We see it as a temporary measure as we will be flooding the supermarkets with our local products. We don’t believe lifting the ban on imports will be a permanent solution because that will result in the demise of local manufacturers. We will go back to a situation whereby the country is flooded with cheap imports, sub-standard products that are a risk on health. You know the story that we went through as a country, we can’t repeat the same.”

Mr Gunda said Government should support the manufacturing sector by providing adequate foreign currency to import raw materials.

He said legislation to protect local industry must remain in force until such a time that business has managed to float and turn around.

Founder and President of The Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers, Mr Denford Mutashu said opening doors for imports will reduce artificial shortages that have become the order of the day.

“This is a commendable decision by Government as it will address supply challenges that recently hit the country. Manufacturers have been deliberately creating artificial shortages that resulted in price hikes and panic buying. This was a manipulation of customers. For example a product which cost $5 was now being sold for as much as $30. “No one is happy with this situation and l can say the Government has relieved the ordinary citizen.

There was clear value chain and price manipulation. One way or the other the price of local products will go down because allowing importation of products results in diversity of market hence paving way for a wide choice of goods. No one can buy cement for $40 a bag when the product is cheaper in neighbouring Zambia,” he said.

Mr Mutashu said manufacturers who have been holding onto goods will release them following the lifting of the ban on imports. “Goods are definitely there at wholesalers and manufacturers but retailers could not access them. With this development, manufacturers will be forced to release the goods to the market at affordable prices or else they run a risk of goods expiring or depreciating,” he said.

Mr Mutashu said people should not overlook the positive impact of this development as some are saying it supports illegal forex dealings. “This is a temporary measure meant to address an urgent national outcry. Of course we don’t deny some points raised by people saying this will increase buying of foreign currency by cross borders. However, let us appreciate the fact that there will be an increase in the supply of goods,” he said.

United Refineries Limited Chief executive officer, Mr Busisa Moyo said their industry had capacity to produce more than twice the local demand but faced foreign currency challenges due to low production of soya beans.

“The immediate problem was a shortage foreign currency and not failure to supply, this is completely inaccurate,” said Mr Moyo.

Residents who spoke to the Chronicle said the move by Government was aimed at protecting the general populace from profiteering businesses.

“We are happy with the opening of the borders by Government. It will serve as a lesson to local retailers who thought that they had monopoly and exploited us. Our salaries have not changed but we are facing these high prices, we cannot budget anymore. At least now our relatives across the borders can send us groceries like they used to before the SI 64,” said Mrs Nobuhle Dube.

A vendor who sells basic commodities along Herbert Chitepo Street said they were happy with the opening of the borders by Government to bring goods but the challenge was the foreign currency exchange rates prevailing on the black market. “While we welcome the move, it is hard for one to buy R100 or P100, it’s too expensive but if the rates continue to drop then our lives would be made easy. Imagine some retailers are selling a 2 litre bottle of cooking oil for $15 which is equivalent to 100 rand. The same bottle costs about 30 rand in South Africa, it’s not fair,” she said.

The people called on Government to specify quantities allowed per person so that they don’t have problems at the border.

Commodities that can now be imported include animal oils and fats (lard, tallow and dripping), baked beans, body creams, bottled water, cement, cereals, cheese, coffee creams, cooking oil, crude soya bean oil, fertiliser, finished steel roofing sheets, wheat flour and ice cream.

Those with free funds can also bring in jams, juice blends, margarine, mayonnaise, packaging materials, peanut butter, pizza base, potato crisps, salad creams, shoe polish, soap, sugar, synthetic hair products, wheel barrows, agrochemicals and stock feeds.

Government yesterday said one is required to pay duty for the goods. “The amending of SI 122 means that listed goods that previously required one to have an import licence no longer require that licence, however you have to pay duty on the goods,” said the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services in a tweet yesterday. — @AuxiliaK @tamary98

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