A wave of price increases of groceries a few days before Christmas has dampened the festive mood, with members of the public lamenting the reduction of their purchasing power.
Over the past week, several shops including retail chains and major supermarkets have hiked the prices of mealie-meal, cooking oil, sugar, meat, rice, fish and potatoes among others.
Businesses claim the price increases were triggered by the depreciating Zimbabwe dollar against the United States dollar on the parallel market.
A snap survey by Chronicle of prices in shops within the Bulawayo Central Business District showed that a 2kg packet of chicken which used to sell for an average of $1 000 now sells for between $1 200 and $1 300.
A kilogramme of fresh kapenta (sardine) increased to an average of $500 for a kilogramme in most retail outlets.
The survey also showed that a two-litre Coke has increased to around $309 from $250 while a two-litre bottle of cooking oil has risen from $500 to $700.
One shopper, Primrose Hadebe, a teacher said they have not enjoyed their bonuses that were paid in foreign currency owing to the “price hike madness”. She said:
Prices of most commodities have gone up. We got paid our bonuses in forex but we have not enjoyed the cushioning because of the price hike madness we are witnessing.
In some cases, prices have more than doubled compared to last month.
The Government paid civil servants their bonuses in United States dollars in November to cushion them against rising inflation.
Another teacher, Marie Ncube from Mkoba 9 suburb in Gweru, implored the Government to intervene and stop the price hikes. She said:
I am a teacher and have just withdrawn my forex bonus but I can only buy very little because of the exorbitant prices in both local currency and forex.
Only two weeks ago the bread price was $150 but now it’s $160. This is just one of the many food items whose price has been increased.
Meanwhile, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Denford Mutashu attributed the prices increases to the weakening Zimbabwe dollar against the United States dollar. Said Mutashu:
The increases are directly related to the continued firming of the United States dollar against the local currency on the parallel market.
He urged consumers to avoid panic buying and instead take their time to compare prices so that they get the best bargains.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Tinashe Manzungu told Chronicle that price increases will likely push up inflation and cut consumer spending.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mavima said there was a need to stabilise the exchange rate so that salaries are not eroded.
He noted that even if salaries are raised in Zimbabwe dollar terms, they will be eroded by exchange rate fluctuations.
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) said the energy price increase had a ripple effect on prices as it directly feeds into rising food and transport costs.