Cooking oil, sugar and cement producers, together with fuel dealers, have reassured the nation that they have capacity to provide the key products at normal prices.
Unprecedented demand in the past ten days, sparked by a spike in foreign currency rates and some misunderstood monetary and fiscal announcements, has caused intermittent shortages of basic commodities such as cooking oil, sugar and bread.
Cement shortages are still being experienced while fuel queues have also resurfaced across the country.
Unscrupulous retailers, particularly those operating outside the law, have taken advantage of the shortages to push prices up.
However, almost in unison, producers and fuel retailers indicated last week that there is no need to panic, let alone pay higher prices.
Zuva Petroleum chief executive officer, Mr Bethwell Gumbo, told The Sunday Mail Business last week that sky-high demand for fuel, which has seen all motorists wanting to buy full tanks for their vehicles at the same time, has caused the continued existence of queues, despite the supplies being normal and unchanged.
“Overall, we are okay. We are delivering but somehow we can’t cope with you guys’ (motorists) demand. Everyone wants to put up a full tank every time they get fuel so it’s moving fast.
“We can tell you that our supplies have not changed, for us it’s a normal supply situation but somehow, we are not coping, the consumption has gone up,” said Mr Gumbo.
He said the fuel situation has been worsened by speculation due to continued existence of queues.
Trek Zimbabwe human resources and administration manager, Ms Rumbidzai Zimvumi also indicated they have adequate fuel at 21 of its service stations across the country.
Ms Zimvumi said: “Yes, the country has fuel challenges but we have been able to operate normally. Trek cardholders and all account holders are guaranteed of fuel at any given time.
“Trek Highlands (Harare) is reserved for cardholders and those with prepaid accounts only.”
Payments are being made in cash, RTGS, swipe or Ecocash.
Last week, the RBZ released US$40 million for the procurement of fuel, resulting in the stabilisation of supplies.
Sugar & cooking oil manufacturers assure consumers
Zimbabwe Sugar Association chairman Mr Muchadeyi Masunda last Friday said there is no need to panic as sugar stocks are adequate.
Mr Masunda said “an abnormal surge in the demand” for sugar, particularly in urban centres, led to speculative behaviour by some traders who ended up increasing the price.
However, large shops such as Pick n Pay and OK Zimbabwe continue to sell the product at US$2,19 (brown sugar) while Spar was selling white sugar at US$2,39.
Prices trebled on the parallel market and tuck shops.
Said Mr Masunda: “We wish to assure all our valued customers and stakeholders that the Zimbabwe Sugar Industry has sufficient stocks to meet the national requirements for both industrial and household grades of sugar to the next season.
“In this regard, we would like to strongly urge all our retailers and wholesalers in the trade to behave responsibly as there is no shortage of sugar in the country.
“Furthermore, we urge consumers to only purchase sugar from formally registered wholesalers and retailers at the recommended prices.”
United Refineries Limited (URL) chief executive officer Mr Busisa Moyo also clarified that cooking oil production is ongoing after they received soya bean from the Grain Marketing Board.
“We have received 10 000 tonnes of soya bean from the Grain Marketing Board, between May 2018 and September 2018 under the Government supported price incentive and we have also received support from the
Reserve Bank for the importation of over 5 000mt of soya bean and 1 000mt of crude oil for the month of October,” said Mr Moyo.
“We are in constant communication with our bankers and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to ensure adequate supplies of cooking oil to our valued customers.
“We urge our loyal customers who have supported the Roil brand over the last eight decades not to be taken advantage of or to risk their hard earned money in speculative buying or hoarding as this is likely to result in loss.”
URL makes the Roil brand.
Last Friday, Zimgold also said: “Keep calm, there’s more than enough for every occasion. We are still distributing your favourite Zimgold cooking oil to stores nationwide at the same great prices you know and love.”
The recommended retail price (RRP) for URL and Zimgold’s 2 litre cooking oil is US$3,99.
URL’s RRP for 5 litres is US$10,94; US$1,75 for 750ml and 93c for a 375ml bottle of cooking oil.
Surface Wilmar, which makes the Pure Drop brand, also said it had adequate capacity to supply cooking oil to the market.
The RRP for Pure Drop for 2 litres of cooking oil is US$3,70.
URL moves to reduce forex demand
Mr Moyo said URL is working towards slashing the foreign currency component in their operations by inviting farmers to join their Soya Bean Out-grower Alliance (Soboa) programme to expand the hectarage under soya for the coming agricultural season.
The project is supported by various banks and input providers.
Mr Moyo said they have applied for 20 000 hectares of land near a viable water source (perennial river, dam or aquifer) for joint venture farming from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement as an import substitution measure.
He said agricultural production can be increased to reduce imports if the skills obtained by graduates from Gwebi, Blackfordby and Mlezu agricultural training institutions are utilised.
“When we say economic development, we mean giving these youngsters land. That’s a real programme,” said Mr Moyo.
Imports of soya bean and crude oil are gobbling up to US$20 million per month, hence URL’s desire to ramp up local soya bean production.
In the 2017/18 season, soya bean was planted on 21 743ha and as at August 28, deliveries were over 39 000 tonnes.
PPC gives cement update
PPC Zimbabwe has also expressed concern over the rent-seeking behaviour by some retailers, who are charging obnoxious prices of up to US$30 per bag of cement.
The company said through its three factories in Zimbabwe, it has enough capacity to supply the Zimbabwe market. The company said the price of cement remains unchanged.
“Our factory prices have not increased since 2010. We therefore urge our customers to resist the unwarranted price increases being effected by some retailers,” said PPC.