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Retailers under spotlight on pricing

TINASHE MAKICHI

Retailers and wholesalers have come under the spotlight over continued pegging of prices of basic commodities on the parallel market foreign currency exchange rate despite getting forex from the official auction system, Business Times heard this week.

The pegging of prices on the parallel market rates has fuelled a rise in prices of basic commodities.

The current official auction rate is ZWL$80.4 to the dollar while some retailers and wholesalers have been using the exchange rate of ZWLL$100 to the greenback for pricing in local currency.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced the auction system in June to replace the fixed exchange rate which had been rejected by the market.

Retailers, wholesalers and the industry have been utilising the auction system where if the system works to desired effect, it would help build market confidence, improve access to foreign currency and help stabilise the exchange rate while speculative activity on the black market could subside significantly.

A snap survey by Business Times noted that some retailers are still using prices pegged at the parallel market rate while pricing the US$ on the official auction rate.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu said such a practice was tantamount to dishonest and profiteering.

“That is unscrupulous behaviour and dishonest if there are any retailers doing that. Our survey shows that most sector players accessing foreign currency on the auction system have complied with the dual pricing directive,” Mutashu said.

But an investigation by Business Times showed that some retailers are selling their goods in local currency using a rate of about ZWL$100 to the greenback while adhering to the official auction rate when one is buying using the greenback.

Prices of nearly all basic commodities, including milk, beef, cooking oil and maize meal, have been rising on a weekly basis, prompting employees to agitate for higher salaries.

Prices of basic commodities stabilised under the multicurrency regime which had been in place from 2009 up to June last year when the local currency was decreed as the sole legal tender.

In March, the government announced that retailers could now price their goods and services in US$ for the certainty of pricing following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa vowed to take the war to the country’s “political detractors, elite opportunists and malcontents” who have been accused of pushing a regime change agenda through sabotaging government economic policies.

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