First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has decried the surge in prices and implored manufacturers and retailers to work on their pricing models so that they take into account the poor's right to food security.
Most people have been priced out of conventional shops as a result of relentless price increases and are now having to make do with tuckshops, which demand cash, though their prices are relatively lower.
Speaking at the 5th annual national retailers and wholesalers awards organised by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers in Harare on Wednesday night, Amai Mnangagwa described the retail sector as integral to the growth and development of the economy as it sits at the tail end of the value chain.
She acknowledged that Zimbabwe's previously male-dominated retail space now has an increased number of successful women entrepreneurs.
"The country has faced numerous transitional economic challenges like price instability, prices increases especially of basic commodities, manufacturing sector capacity utilisation decline (according to CZI) from average 45 percent to current average of 35 percent," said the First Lady.
"As a mother, it is my sincere hope that with current economic reforms to turn around our economy, 2020 becomes a better year for all of us."
The First Lady encouraged everyone to work hard to turn the fortunes of the country and said she was optimistic about the future of Zimbabwe, with everyone pulling in the same direction.
"I implore all of us to continuously work on our pricing models so that they are reflective of the poor, whose right to food security remains paramount," she said.
"Let us improve access to basic commodities to the marginalised, while ensuring that your businesses remain viable."
Manufactures and retailers, she said, should increase production and distribution of basic goods to all corners of the country at affordable prices, especially commodities which the Government has subsidised like maize-meal.
"I am aware of the challenges business is facing like foreign currency, load-shedding, fuel situation and high cost of rentals," said the First Lady.
"I am equally appraised also of efforts to normalise the situation by the Government."
The First Lady said she travelled across the country meeting different people and business should not turn a blind eye to its communities.
"Please, give back in different ways and help the poor and vulnerable," she said. "I have also received concerns on conditional selling, demand for cash only payments, high prices on swipe and EcoCash and demand for payment in hard currency like USD, Botswana Pula and South African rand.
"I implore you to practise good business ethics as this has excluded the majority."
Amai Mnangagwa hailed the individual and collective achievements that had been made to sustain the economy this year despite a tough operating environment.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu said the retail and wholesale sector was an essential part of the country's economic fabric.
He said the annual event sought to recognise sector players that would have performed exceptionally well during the course of the year.
"We have been faced by a number of challenges, but having managed to learn from our hard-working First Lady, she has taught us that in times of difficulties, we remain optimistic," he said.
"Zimbabwe is our country, we have to toil for its transformation. We cannot leave it to anyone to come and develop it. As Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers, we have gone through a lot of difficulties as well, but we have remained focused and indeed the increased membership for the CZR is testimony that there is a lot of work that is currently ongoing.
"As CZR we have been doing a wonderful job, we have been creating employment, supported the value chain and also supporting communities."
Several retailers and wholesalers scooped prizes and walked away with certificates and trophies which were handed over by the First Lady.
TM Pick and Pay emerged as the overall retailer/wholesaler winner of the year.