The Sunday News
Noble Ncube, Business Reporter
THE cost of living for a family of six went down 0,6 percent to $554,21 in February compared to $557,58 in the first month of the year, pushed down by the continued decrease in the price of fuel.
In its latest update, consumer watchdog, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) said year on year the cost has gone down by $28 from its February 2015 figure of $582,24.
CCZ said notable decrease was recorded in fuel which has been going down over the past few months following international oil prices which have also been on the downward trend.
However, CCZ said during the period, mealie-meal recorded the highest increase of 99 cents per 20 kilogramme pack from $9,30 to $10,29.
“Decrease in prices was recorded in brown sugar by eight cents from $1,73 to $1,65, margarine by four cents from 89 cents to 85 cents, fresh milk by 19 cents from 69 cents to 50 cents, laundry bar by a cent from 80 cents to 79 cents and cabbage by 14 cents from 89 cents to 75 cents.
“We assume that the above price decreases are necessitated by the reduction of fuel costs as more commodities are imported from outside the country. However, the increase in mealie-meal prices is due to importation costs and shortage of maize in the country,” said the consumer watchdog.
CCZ said other increases in prices were recorded in tea leaves by 85 cents from $1 to $1,85, bread by five cents from 60 cents to 65 cents, flour by 60 cents from 99 cents to $1,59, rice by 10 cents from $1,45 to $1,55, tomatoes by 19 cents from 40 cents to 59 cents , onions by 16 cents from 69 cents to 85 cents, beef (economy) one kilogramme by 10 cents from $3,50 to $3,60, bath soap by four cents from 37 cents to 41 cents and washing powder by 10 cents from 99 cents to $1,09.
CCZ said the food basket has been on the decrease over the past few months.
The food basket decreased by $3,79 or 3,27 percent from $115,93 by end January to $112,14 by end February.
The price of detergents increased by $0,42 or 0,49 percent from $7,65 to $8,07 in the period under review. The price of cooking oil and salt remained unchanged from the end January 2016 figures.
CCZ Matabeleland regional manager Mr Comfort Muchekeza said there was an urgent need for the Government to engage maize producing countries and purchase more to alleviate shortage of mealie-meal.
“If the Government does not act swiftly on the issue of maize shortage currently being faced countrywide there’s going to be an increase in demand of mealie-meal. We anticipate a huge increase on the price of mealie-meal. The Government must locate more countries both regionally and internationally to source maize from before demand overrides supply.
“During this kind of crisis the Government must make measures that will clear logistics at all point of entries in the country. All cargo carrying maize should be given first preference so that they do not delay reaching their destination,” said Mr Muchekeza.
Commenting on the $28,03 comparable change between February of 2015 and this year, Mr Muchekeza said the economy was generally stabilising.
He said prices of commodities have been gradually dropping since last year, one of the reasons being attributed to the fall of the South African rand in recent months.
“Comparing the monthly budget cost of February last year and this year, we can easily identify the huge $28 margin.
As a result of South Africa being our number one trading partner, the fall of that country’s currency made it cheaper for local wholesalers and retailers to an extent that the price drop was felt by consumers,” said Mr Muchekeza.