Fresh calls for price controls



INDUSTRIALISTS and economists have said the Competition and Tariffs Commission (CTC)’s suspension of price and commodity monitoring programme has led to a drastic increase in prices of basic commodities such as maize meal, rice and flour, putting them beyond the reach of many.

The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe in May signed a memorandum of understanding with the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers, agreeing on a model pricing system for basic commodities to protect consumers from being short-changed by unscrupulous retailers.

But CTC suspended the initiative saying it wanted to investigate unethical business practices by some players.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting on the state of the economy on Thursday, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Henry Ruzvidzo said the decision by CTC to ban the price control programme was not helpful under the current economic situation.

“In my view with the challenges that we are facing which are unusual for any country, we probably need to introspect. We need to go back to the basics and do what works and not just apply the rules that are perhaps sometimes applicable to a better functioning economy,” he said.

“So the initiative taken by the milling industry to try and self-regulate and control the events that are happening in the economy, perhaps what should be happening is there should be more discussions held with the authorities on how that can also work without infringing on the issues of competition.”

Africa Economic Development Strategies executive director Gift Mugano urged CTC to consider the volatile economic environment.

“The current situation is that we have commodities which are in short supply and you cannot allow those commodities to go on a free market or on competition,” Mugano said.

“How do you allow competition to take place when there is a shortage? The market will fail definitely! So we have seen that it is a basic practice globally, even in South Africa even here in Zimbabwe, we used to see Coca-Cola putting the price on the trucks that the drink of Coca-Cola cost $0,40 and that was self-regulation and the CTC was quiet about it.”

He questioned why the CTC was not investigating unfair pricing.

“It’s really a question of value chain approach, a negotiation to say that we should allow a situation where people go into a ransacking behaviour and what is now happening is that some retailers are charging prices which are astronomical and you can see this if you can just do window shopping that one is five times more than the other on the same product and the same CTC is sleeping,” Mugano said.

“They are not going there and investigate unfair pricing. In any way, the Consumer Council act which is coming into play will allow industrial self-regulation.
So if they continue with that they are going against the current legislative process which is being put by government.”

GMAZ deputy chair Masimba Dzomba said following the ban on the price monitoring programme, consumers were left at the mercy of unscrupulous traders.

CTC director Ellen Ruparaganga could not be reached for comment.