Retailers playing with fire – warns Mutashu

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By Staff Reporter

MUTARE: The Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) has warned its members who are unilaterally hiking prices that they were looking for trouble if they continued on that path.

CZR president Denford Mutashu’s warning comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa in April angrily described some businesses as “unpatriotic saboteurs.”

Mutashu was speaking at a joint meeting between the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) and local retailers in the eastern border city of Mutare on Monday.

GMAZ and CRZ recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) around a pricing model of agreed basic commodities such as salt, mealie meal, rice and flour.

Under this arrangement, GMAZ will deploy price monitors across the country to monitor prices so as to protect consumers from being fleeced by unscrupulous retailers.

“The retailers will have to be responsible and fair in their pricing. As Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers, we are on record saying we don’t defend mediocrity and bad behaviour. We also don’t defend irresponsibility on the part of traders.

“What we are doing is to make sure we engage. The engagement process has taken us countrywide and in addition to that, we have identified gaps in consumer education so we are going to be together with Consumer Council of Zimbabwe,” said Mutashu.

“We will go across the country together, educating the consumers as a critical stakeholder with information so that they have knowledge and will not be shortchanged. In the current dynamics, it’s quite unfortunate that there has been a lot of distortions.”

Mutashu admitted that a lot of retailers have taken advantage of the prevailing situation to fleece ordinary citizens.

He pleaded with manufacturers to stop demanding payment in foreign currency arguing this has caused distortions in the market.

“Other distortions have arisen out of demands for payment in foreign currency by some manufactures. That has caused a lot of distortions because the retailers will buy for onward sell to consumers who have no capacity whatsoever to buy those goods and services in US dollar,” said Mutashu.

“That is a gap we have identified which is also a source of distortions. Thus in this particular arrangement, we made it very clear to the millers that at no point will they be charging the identified products negotiated around in US$.

“These products are going to be charged in local currency so that all the distortions will be removed.”

Gift Mugano, an economist with Africa Economic Development Strategies (AEDS) said self regulation was critical to restore sanity in the retail sector.

He said if the price hikes continued in the next two months, no manufacturer or retailer will have the capacity to continue.

“If we don’t restrain ourselves and continue increasing prices, we will reach a plateau.

“So, it is telling to me, that at that point, no retailer or manufacturer will have the capacity to continue. If we reach a plateau, it can result in the collapse of industry, retailers and whole economy,” said Mugano  warned.

However, a day after these undertakings, the Grain Millers Association increases prices of mealie meal by 100%.