Retailers halt new stocks

RETAIL shops have stopped restocking as they fear that government could be planning to launch another blitz on business as party of a campaign strategy in the expected run-off election.


Retailers told businessdigest this week that they were waiting until the election period is over.
“We are not sure. A run-off might cause problems for us,” said a senior manager with a local supermarket chain.
Other retail companies said although they might want to restock they are yet to recover from the blitz launched by government last year.
There are also indications that some companies are still facing difficulties in getting new supplies because most manufacturing companies have either shut down or reduced capacity drastically.  
A snap survey by businessdigest revealed that commodities such as cooking oil, sugar, mealie-meal, bread, salt and flour were not readily available in shops.
The shortages have affected the country’s top two retail groups, OK Zimbabwe and TM Supermarkets, whose shelves are currently half full owing to re-stocking problems. One of OK’s branch managers, Frank Sumani, said getting new supplies was still a problem.
“We are not getting anything from our suppliers,” Sumani said.
He said the unavailability of basics was a result of the economic crisis that the country is facing.
He said suppliers had also been hit by other macro-economic factors. 
Food World, one of the leading supermarkets, said they were facing similar problems with supplies dwindling daily.
“Our suppliers are not bringing in anything, though we do have cooking oil on our shelves, it is not locally made, it is from South Africa,” said a branch manager at one of the Food World supermarkets.
At TM along Harare Street, shelves were lined up with bottled mineral water and fruit juices.
“We have to cover up our shelves because they are empty,” said an official from TM.
“We have excess mineral water and juices; it doesn’t make sense to keep these in our warehouse when we can use them to fill up the shelves.”
The official at TM said the reason why their shelves were empty is because their suppliers have not delivered goods in a long time.
“The last batch of mealie meal we had was in October last year because our suppliers, including GMB, have said they have no maize,” said the official.
“We do not have sugar at the present moment but we have made orders to Zimbabwe Sugar Refinery (ZSR) who said the sugar is available but there is no transport to make the deliveries.”
Delta Beverages has stopped production of soft drinks owing to shortages of sugar.
Delta spokesperson, George Mtendadzamera said the sparkling beverages business is a major user of bottler grade sugar. 
“While the general shortage of sugar impacts adversely on our ability to produce the full range of our brands we are doing our best to cope with these supply challenges.
 “The suppliers of sugar continue to do their best to minimize disruption to our production  and we work closely with them all the time.”
Most manufacturers have been citing lack of raw materials as the major constraint in their efforts to supply.
“Oil suppliers have not given us anything for the past six months, while one of our biggest suppliers Olivine which last supplied us three months ago has ceased production,” said the TM branch official.
Olivine cited unavailability of coal as the major reason why they have halted production. Bread, a basic commodity is also in short supply.
“The shortages are now being felt because we don’t have wheat, stocks have dried up, no miller has wheat, GMB has no wheat and there is no money for importation,” said Vincent Mangoma, the chairman of the National Baker’s Association (NBA).
Most companies are not making business decisions as they wait for the outcome of the polls to map the way forward. 
 However, president of Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Marah Hativagone said the empty shelves were not as a result of precautionary measures ahead of the run-off but rather the same problems that businesses have been experiencing for the past ten
years.
“Manufacturers have no raw materials to produce that which is not on the shelves,” Hativagoni said.
“It is not a new phenomenon but it is being worsened by the fact that we are not having more meetings with government resulting in no policy being formulated.”
She said business is receiving no support and that their plight was being ignored, the   only voice that was coming from the government was that of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission which keeps warning people to restock or face the full wrath of the law.
“People are ignoring us and there is no support from the central bank since a large amount of money was bankrolled into financing activities related to the elections,” said Hativagone.
“The only link perhaps between empty shelves and the delay in announcing results could be that, government arms are not working properly.
“We do not have a government in place to monitor and assist in running businesses.” 
A business executive who refused to be named said it was not wise to make business decisions at the moment without knowledge of what is going to happen in the future.

By Jeslyn Dendere

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