An ugly row between the Grain Millers of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) and the Competitions and Tariffs Commission (CTC) has resulted in the termination of employment contracts for 200 price monitors recently engaged to monitor pricing of basic commodities across the country.
In a statement, Tuesday GMAZ said it had been forced into the drastic action after "hostile" treatment from the CTC and general manager Lynette Vheremu warned that the possibility of prices of basic commodities shooting through the roof is very real.
"In light of this hostile treatment we are receiving from CTC, I regret to advise that I have halted the price monitoring program and the employment contracts of 200 price monitors terminated," said Vheremu.
She added: "For the past 10 weeks we have ran the price monitoring program, prices of maize meal, self-raising flour, salt and sugar stabilised (and) were within range in all major shops nationwide. This has helped food security at household level. However, in the absence of price monitors the prices of mealie meal, flour, salt, and rice are expected to increase in the market astronomically."
As if on cue, the price of sugar as observed by NewZimbabwe.com shot from $9.99 to $17.50 an increase of about 70%.
Prices for a 10 kilograms of mealie - meal is now at $27 while a 5 kilograms of rice is now going $45.Even a 2 litres bottle of cooking oil which had been reduced to around $19 soon after the scrapping of the multicurrency regime in the country almost three weeks ago rose to $27.
Commodities such as meat, eggs, sugar and vegetables have all gone up over the period, while bread is still in short supply and being sold for between $7 to $10. Some of the most popular cordials brands are selling for between $18 to $21 for a 2l bottle.
Washing soap now costs $11 up from around $3.30 while bathing soap which had gone down to $3 is now being sold at a price around $9.50.
Vheremu said GMAZ is not happy that CTC continues to maintain a deafening silence when prices of other key commodities skyrocket but are quick to attack their organisation's initiative that seeks to stabilise prices.
According to Vheremu, GMAZ made an urgent application for condonation with the CTC on February 7, this year for the setting up of GMAZ's Costs Review Technical Committee (CRTC) whose mandate is to compute fair prices for maize meal, flour, rice and salt on behalf of the grain milling industry.
The engagement was also meant to ensure compliance by all players in the value chain through the price monitoring programme.
She said this was done at the instigation of the government which is also subsidising maize and wheat and widely welcomed by the consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ).
"This exercise is deemed by law as a restrictive measure. We later met with them at their offices and answered all their queries. CTC later wrote a letter on March 5, 2019 requesting for information which we provided them with on May 5, 2019. Regrettably they adjusted our case as not urgent and declared the function of CRTC as per se prohibited," said Vheremu.
This program was the joint effort of GMAZ, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers and CCZ .
Vheremu also said this was well received by all value chain players including millers, retailers and the consumers.
The CTC was not immediately available for comment.