Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
CONSUMERS with access to foreign currency are reaping the benefits of Government’s decision to allow businesses to transact in forex as goods become cheaper compared to when one is buying using local currency.
In March, Government gazetted a statutory instrument allowing the wider use of foreign currency in the country.
The amended Statutory Instrument, Exchange Control (Exclusive Use of Zimbabwe dollar for Domestic Transactions) (Amendment) regulations 2020, allowed any person to pay for goods and services chargeable in Zimbabwe dollars, in foreign currency using his or her free funds at the ruling rate on the date of payment.
Consumers say products have become cheaper if you buy using foreign currency as opposed to first converting the money into local currency.
A number of shops in Bulawayo have taken advantage of that to mop up foreign currency on the market by offering rates higher than the official and black market rates for those buying using forex.
Last week, Government introduced foreign currency auction system to instill discipline in the financial services with an average rate of US$1 selling for $58.
Illegal forex dealers were yesterday offering a rate of US$1: $85.
For customers buying in forex, Greens Supermarket pegged its rate at US$1:$95, Oceans Supermarket was using US$1:$100 and Choppies US$1:$90.
Wholesaler, Fortwell was offering US$1:$95 while hardware shops such as Halsteds had rates as high as US$1:$100.
Some supermarkets such as Oceans Supermarket have priced their goods in United States dollars but are still accepting local currency.
Products priced in local currency are ridiculously high, making a lot of people to resort to paying for goods in foreign currency.
TM Pick n Pay and OK and a few others are following the official rate and they have become a safe haven for those with no access to foreign currency.
In some shops the price of 2kg rice ranges from US$2,10 to US$2,45 while the same product was being sold at $230 in some retail outlets. Peanut butter is being sold for US$1 in forex while in local currency its going for $140.
Cooking oil was pegged at US$3 while in local currency it was being sold for between $250 and $330 in some of the shops.
Consumers told Chronicle that they were having value for money when using forex.
Mr Melusi Dlamini, who was queuing at Greens Supermarket, said he does not get the real value of his foreign currency when he converts it to local currency first. “The rates being offered at Greens Supermarket are much higher. Yesterday, I wanted to buy a tin of shoe polish at one of the bigger retail shops but I couldn’t as their rate was too low. I needed to spend more than US$1 to buy just that. But at Greens I can buy the same product and be given change using a dollar. So, this is just about the competition on prices in various shops, we will always opt for cheaper shops,” said Mr Dlamini.
Another shopper Mrs Nomsa Dube said she gets more products if she buys using foreign currency as opposed to first converting the money to local currency. “I received the money from my relatives who live in the diaspora. For me it’s better to come and buy here using the foreign currency. If I change my money, I will not get the same quantities as directly buying using forex.,” said Ms Dube.
Another resident, Miss Tryphen Mlala said she shops at Greens Supermarket as she was told that it was cheaper to do so.
However, an illegal money changer who was selling goods just at the door step of one of the supermarkets, who identified herself only as Diana, said Government should act on shops offering rates that are higher than the official one.
“I admit that I’m a money changer and what I do is illegal but how different are these shops from us. They are luring clients using rates that are higher than what the black market is offering. If Government is acting on money changers why is it not doing the same to these shops as what they are doing is also illegal,” said Diana.
An economic commentator, Mr Dumisani Sibanda said only the private sector and informal market will benefit from selling goods in foreign currency.
He said public entities who comply with Government regulations stand to lose as their rates are less attractive.
“You have to understand how companies are structured. There are some public entities, parastatals and private sector including the smaller retail shops that you are referring to. You have shops like OK and TM Pick and Pay these are companies, that are following the official Government rate,” he said.
“These other ones are mopping the foreign currency because there is less accountability, but you can’t run an economic like that. Government needs to act on them.”
Mr Sibanda said with civil servants expected to receive foreign currency cushioning allowances, it will not be surprising that some of shops will start creating a new exchange rate for those buying in cash and using forex bank cards. — @nqotshili.