Zimbabwean retailers apparently looking to increase their share of the year-end bonuses civil servants are expecting to receive before long have raised basic commodity prices.
Zimbabwean shoppers said a five kilogram bag of maize meal climbed in price late this week by a dollar in most supermarkets to US$3.50 - a 40 percent increase.
A bunch of vegetables went from 50 cents to US$1.00 while a kilogram of sugar was fetching more than US$2 in some shops after rises of 20-40 cents.
Residents of Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo said the new round of price increases are unjustified, complaining that retailers are seeking to cash in on the yearend bonuses civil servants hope to reap soon in the form of a 13th month paycheck.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said this week that the government is looking for US$300 million to pay civil servants the hoped-for bonus.
Harare resident Gary Mahlengwe said that the government should block price increases. “We are are tired of these price increases and especially when they are introduced by retailers anticipating bonus payments this month,” Mahlengwe said.
Masvingo resident Chris Ncube said only the rich can afford to buy basic commodities. “The rest of us will struggle everyday to make ends meet,” Ncube said.
Rosemary Mpofu, acting director of the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, said the latest price increases look like a ripple effect from the re-introduction of import duties on key commodities in July, which triggered initial price rises in August.
The price of beef more than doubled in most Zimbabwean cities early this week due to a scarcity of livestock and the end of a program importing cattle from Botswana.
Beef prices have risen to as much as US$12 a kilo for choice cuts, and substitution by consumers has also driven up the prices of chicken and pork.