Imports ban suspension, a welcome relief to consumers

by Anesu Pedzisayi

In a bid to redress the shortages of basic commodities being faced by the country, Government resolved to amend indefinitely, Statutory Instrument (SI) 122 of 2017 to allow companies and individuals with free funds to import specified basic commodities that are in short supply.

The past few weeks have seen the public engaging in speculative behaviour, resulting in panic buying and hoarding. This also resulted in continued increases in prices, ultimately pushing the commodities beyond the reach of many. Basic commodities such as cooking oil, sugar, soaps, flour and the Mazoe drink, amongst other products have been in short supply, whilst some retailers have been selling them at exorbitant prices.

As a result, some retailers took the opportunity to rip off consumers of their hard earned money, so as to realise huge profits. The indefinite amendment will therefore allow for normalcy to return in buying patterns of the public and also for adequate restocking by manufacturers, who have been failing to meet increased demand from consumers.

As much as the Government has been on a drive to protect local markets and encouraging local production, the country’s economy is yet to fully stabilise to support the ultimate goal. The country has been making efforts to make sure the economy becomes self-sustainable. However in the interim, it is a welcome development that the SI 122 has been amended to protect the consumers from erratic price increases and shortages.

The initiative will effectively reduce the price of basic commodities on the open market. a situation that will drive away monopoly by certain retailers. Comparative advantage means lower-priced goods. Various retailers will participate by providing similar products to the market, resulting in abundance and variety for consumers to choose from.

It can also be argued that by allowing imports, Government would be encouraging trade relations with neighbouring countries. Recently, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, said her country was ready to assist Zimbabwe so that reforms being implemented to turn around the country would succeed. The two countries have been enjoying mutually beneficial trade relations, with most of Zimbabwe’s imported products coming from the Southern nation. South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner and it is with no doubt that the specified basic commodities will be imported mostly from South Africa.

Also, various trade agreements negotiated between Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries would enable those importing to do so easily and at cost effective conditions.

Zimbabwe’s manufacturing industry has also been on the rebound. As a result, most manufacturers are in the process of retooling and acquiring advanced technologies to meet up with international standards and also improving on producing high quality goods. This has also contributed in the local industry failing to meet with increased demand of certain commodities, thereby resulting in shortages.

However, as much as importation of basic commodities is commendable, it is also advisable that the country be wary of bringing in cheap products that would not be of good quality. The local market may be susceptible to cheap imports that may put the health of locals at risk as some countries may be inclined to dump sub-standard products to imprudent consumers.  It is also imperative that officials at the ports of entry practice meticulous measures so that local consumers are protected.

The consumers also have the responsibility to make sure that they do not buy uncertified products out of gullibility. It is also the consumers’ responsibility to check for expiry dates especially on food stuffs, and to desist from trading with unlicensed and unrecognised dealers. The safety and welfare of consumers should be of top priority and Government has the mandate to make sure that it plugs all porous border posts. Due diligence has to be practiced collectively, to ensure that consumers are protected and that retailers do not take advantage of a recovering economy for outrageous gains.