Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Prices of basic food items — including maize-meal, rice, cooking oil, sugar, salt, flour and bread — will revert to the levels of March 25, just before the lockdown, in an agreement between producers and the Government, Vice President Kembo Mohadi announced yesterday.
VP Mohadi, in the presence of the leaders of the involved business organisations, made the announcement at a press briefing at Munhumutapa Offices. The Vice President said the two sides had agreed that prices of basic commodities would revert to the levels they had reached on March 25.
This was when the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe fixed the interbank exchange rate at $25 to US$1 for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency, the level it had reached in free trading in a managed float.
The chosen date means that the price rises caused by the rising rate during the managed float remain, but the extra price rises put in by producers in expectation of further rises in the exchange rate now fall away since for the time being there are no further rate changes.
The announcement followed the adoption of the price moratorium by Cabinet on Tuesday.
“There was a general agreement among the multi-sectoral partners that the price increase, particularly during the lockdown, was speculative and unjustified,” said the Vice President.
“The multi-sectoral stakeholders committed to a price moratorium to operate based on the prices, which were applicable on March 25. The moratorium will also apply to all value chain players. This was supported by Cabinet decision of April 21, 2020 and will take effect immediately,” VP Mohadi said.
Speaking soon after the announcement by VP Mohadi, Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Roderick Musiyiwa welcomed Government’s stance on dialogue.
“We as the OEAZ indeed welcome the spirit with which Government is doing its business, the spirit of engagement, the spirit of dialogue and with that kind of spirit any challenges, however big will be resolved and solutions will be found.
“We welcome this move and on our part we will ensure that the consumers continue getting their cooking oil at an affordable price,” Mr Masiyiwa said.
The cooking oil manufacturers would also engage their key value chain suppliers to ensure continuous supply of cooking oil.
Mr Tafadzwa Musarara, the chairman of the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, said the decision to freeze prices was collectively made.
“On behalf of the GMAZ we would want to vouch that the decision has been a product of consultation; it’s a collective decision that has been reached at by both the Government and private players for the benefit of consumers.
“As millers we are fully aware that food is a constitutional right and we are fully aware of the need to ensure the availability of our products in all retail shops,” Mr Musarara said.
Mr Denniss Wallah of the National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe said the decision was supported by his organisation’s membership.
“We welcome the decision that Government has made and we confirm that our members are willing to support the noble gesture and we are in a position to supply the market with the required product,” Mr Wallah said.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe chairman Mr Philip Bvumbe said the decision had a buy-in from all stakeholders adding that there was need to monitor the implementation of the agreement to prevent shortages.
“We would want to applaud the move by Government but taking into cognition that this is a gentlemen’s agreement where the parties have agreed through consultation,” he said.
President of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Mr Denford Mutashu said the decision was made to cushion consumers. He said his organisation took part in the negotiations that resulted in the agreement to freeze prices.
“As the general public stays at home it deserve an uninterrupted supply of basic commodities at affordable prices,” Mr Mutashu said. “We will also ensure that as retailers we will fully implement and comply with the price moratorium and ensure that the citizenry does not starve at this critical time. It is our wish to work with manufacturers and suppliers to ensure that there is supply of these basic commodities.”