Coronavirus not licence to hike prices

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HARRY PETER WILSON – THE coronavirus (Covid-19) implosion should not be a licence for our local business people to unnecessarily hike prices of basic commodities.

It is important that the government takes measures to keep prices stable, hence appeal to the traders’ goodwill.
In the situation we find ourselves today, traders should curb speculation as there is an increase of demand owing to panic-buying by people who are suspicious about the unfolding health crisis.

While the local dollar continues to collapse, the recent price increases of items including rice, sugar and cooking oil have also been necessitated by the coronavirus scare; especially coming after President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared it a national disaster.

Panicked citizens are going on a shopping spree, resulting in steep price hikes of some products.

Sellers are already trying to profit from the crisis which is now connected to the global trade environment in which several industrialised countries have closed their borders, hence limiting movement of goods.

Indeed, food scarcity and shortages will soon be common since many commodities were coming from these industrialised nations that have already closed down their borders. As a result of such trade embargoes, it will also be very difficult for the international donors to transport food aid to Zimbabwe which was already facing shortages.

With little happening on our farms in terms of food production, our reliance on neighbours and donor food will result in extreme hunger.

Images of empty supermarket shelves throughout the world and in neighbouring South Africa because of impending lockdowns seems to have instilled fear into locals who have started panic buying.

I have been to several pharmacies and they have already run out of sanitisers as Zimbabweans anticipate for the worst case scenario; what will follow next are serious shortages of basic food stuffs and necessities such as toiletries and medicines.

While overseas countries have the capacity to restock, our local supermarkets will find it difficult and near impossible to do that once people panic buy and empty the stores.

If at all the supermarkets manage to restock, I bet my last dollar that the prices would be way out of reach for ordinary Zimbabweans.

As a nation we need to evaluate our strategic grain depots to see how much food we have at the moment, how much we need for the foreseeable future; say for the next 12 months and device plans.

We need to make an urgent plan as a nation because the scarcity of food will make the little that will be available very expensive.

While in other countries the business communities are mobilising millions of dollars to go towards the coronavirus, it is sad that in Zimbabwe the business community is already busy mapping ways to milk us.

The coronavirus is a national crisis that needs our combined effort; the rich must help and cover-up for the poor; the business community must mobilise and spare part of their profits to fight hunger that will soon be on our midst, especially in marginalised areas.

Mobilisation of resources geared towards the coronavirus can be initiated at provincial and district level; it shouldn’t be concentrated in Harare only and it should not be political.

We have to involve all stakeholders in this fight; the church, civic society, donor agencies, government, health departments, provincial and district agencies.

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