HomeBusinessPrice controls set to return

Price controls set to return

Shakeman Mugari

GOVERNMENT is planning to bring back price controls in an effort to stop the sudden surge in basic commodity prices.

“>The Ministry of Industry and International Trade is understood to be compiling a list of basic commodities whose controlled prices would be gazetted in the near future, sources in the ministry’s consumer relations department said.

The decision comes on the back of drastic increases slapped on commodities by retailers and manufacturers in an effort to remain viable.

The consumer affairs department of the ministry has been directed by the minister to carry out an urgent price study that would culminate in the gazetting of the controlled prices.

Commodities on the controlled price list would include bread, cooking oil, maize meal, baby food, and milk.

Sources in the department said agricultural essentials would also be included on the list.

There is unconfirmed speculation in political circles that government also plans to use the price controls as a campaign to spruce up its image ahead of next year’s parliamentary election.

Government has over the past month insisted that the price of basic commodities must come down in tandem with the inflation rate which has been slowing down.

In defiance of government’s directive, industry has however increased the price of commodities by between 12% and 25%, a move that has angered state officials.

The transport industry has since increased fares, ostensibly to cover the cost of fuel and spare parts.

The government has however vowed to crackdown on commuter operators that charge unstipulated fares.

The Acting Minister of Industry and International Trade Olivia Muchena could not give further details saying she was “only an acting minister”.

“We have not discussed the issue of price controls at the moment. In any case I am only an acting minister. I would not have the actual details. Why don’t you speak to the NECF, they held a discussion on that issue,” said Muchena.

In an effort to gather public views on the price increases the National Economic Consultative Forum, which has strong links to the industry and trade ministry, last week organised an urgent meeting to discuss the pricing issue.

The controls are likely to witness a repeat of what happened two years ago when government introduced wide-ranging controls resulting in serious food shortages.

In response retailers withdrew the controlled commodities from the shelves – giving rise to the black market.

The controls were however lifted last year following an outcry from industrialists.

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