Price hikes and potential shortages feared as Zimbabwean government tightens import regulations

Cde Mthuli Ncube

In a recent development, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has issued a warning about potential price hikes following the government’s decision to rescind the suspension of import duties on basic commodities. The move, enacted through Statutory Instrument 10A of 2024, reintroduces import duties on essential items such as maize meal, milk, sugar, rice, flour, salt, bath soap, laundry soap, washing powder, and toothpaste, effective from February 1, 2024.

CCZ spokesperson, Philimon Chereni, expressed concerns about possible shortages of these basic commodities, as local industries might struggle to meet the market demand for these goods. Chereni noted that businesses with available funds were previously allowed to import these items without paying duty, but the Finance, Economic Development, and Investment Promotion minister, Mthuli Ncube, has now reversed this directive.

While the decision aims to protect local industries from the influx of imports, which has reduced their capacity utilization, it is expected to result in further price increases for basic commodities. The CCZ has already noted a significant upward trend in prices, particularly in the local currency, through their routine research in the CCZ basket. This, in turn, erodes consumers’ purchasing power.

Chereni emphasized the need for policymakers to engage in consultations to determine if local industries can adequately fill the gap left by restricted imports. By doing so, unforeseen shortages could be avoided, ensuring the continued availability of essential goods in the market.

Some retailers have even started rejecting the local currency in favour of the United States dollar, further complicating the situation.

In light of these developments, the CCZ has called for dialogue between industry leaders and authorities to stabilize businesses affected by the new law. They stress the importance of continuous engagement between stakeholders to find lasting solutions that can mitigate the potential negative effects on both businesses and consumers.

As Zimbabwe navigates the challenges posed by these policy changes, it remains crucial for policymakers to strike a balance between protecting local industries and ensuring affordable access to basic commodities for consumers. The path forward necessitates collaborative efforts and thoughtful decision-making to promote stability and sustainability in the market.

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