BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
ZIMBABWE retailers have called for calm, dissuading consumers from engaging in panic-buying of goods in supermarkets after the country recorded its first COVID-19 case last Friday.
While the outbreak started in China, the southern African country recorded its first case last week and in response to that, consumers engaged in panic-buying in selected supermarkets dotted around the country’s capital, Harare.
So far, two people have tested positive of the novel disease in the country, with the second victim, Zororo Makamba, son of respected businessman James Makamba, losing the battle against the dreaded disease yesterday morning at Wilkins Hospital.
“There is, indeed, panic-buying and Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) urges consumers to remain calm as the buying spree causes unnecessary shortages. We are in constant liaison with our manufacturers and suppliers,” CZR president Denford Mutashu told NewsDay Business yesterday.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, countries such as China, Italy, France, Denmark, El Salvador, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, and Spain have effected the world’s biggest and most preventive mass quarantine, putting their citizens on lockdown.
Mutashu said presently, retailers and wholesalers were fully stocked, adding in case of widespread panic-buying, retailers and wholesalers might need an urgent COVID-19 restocking fund.
“There is need to create an urgent COVID-19 fund that will intervene in all areas of need, especially production of essential goods and medicines. Retailers and wholesalers require an urgent restocking facility to ensure essential basic commodities do not run out at any given moment. But at the moment, we are fully stocked and are able to replenish if the situation remains moderate as it is,” he said.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe president Philip Bvumbe said consumers’ reaction was driven by fear of coronavirus-induced shortages of goods as well as the motive to buy goods before their earnings are buffeted by raging inflation.
“Where there is no information, people will then assume and given the nature of our consumer society and the experiences they had in the past, they end up doing more in anticipation of a worst scenario.
Not only that, look at it a bit differently, if you look at the inflationary levels and how they are affecting consumers’ buying power, you will realise that people will rather buy goods when their money still has buying power. So its two-pronged; coronavirus and pressure on consumers on the assumption that shops might close; their money losing value and yet they do not have enough food reserves,” he said.
Bvumbe called for a multi-stakeholder engagement to allay fears among the public.