THE Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) says it is confident the reduction in bread prices will not lead to a compromise in quality.
Bakers indicated that they would reduce the cost of bread from $1 per loaf to between 90 cents and 95 cents in line with a Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) plea for business to adjust their prices downwards following the introduction of bond coins to ease the unavailability of change.
However, in the past, consumers have complained that when bakers reduced prices, they compromised quality. The trend was prevalent during the hyperinflationary era, which was characterised by price controls.
CCZ Matabeleland manager Comfort Muchekeza said current price reductions were different in that they were a result of modalities worked out throughout the whole production chain.
“In the past, prices were cut at the last point in the chain meaning the inputs to produce bread would still cost the same while a government directive would tell bakers to reduce prices of the finished goods,” Muchekeza said.
“Currently, I believe the industry has realised the real value of a dollar and that they have actually been overcharging. We hope that since the reduction process was negotiated and agreed by all players, consumers will not be prejudiced.”
Muchekeza said the CCZ was, however, on the lookout and would monitor the situation closely.
“Yesterday (Monday) we went around most shops to check if indeed prices had been reduced and noted that most retailers are now selling a loaf for between 90 cents and 95 cents,” he added.
The regional CCZ boss advised business to allow market forces to determine prices on a level playing field.
“Those who want to still charge $1 per loaf should ensure that the quality they serve is second to none because it would be unfair to sell a normal product at an exorbitant price.
“When we say market forces we are also talking about such variables as packaging which should then justify any price differences when a product is of similar quality,” Muchekeza explained.
Some bakers have been selling two loaves of bread at $1 and Muchekeza said these were substandard products.
“In-store bakeries have always sold below $1 per loaf, but most of them don’t value packaging as you will usually buy such bread in transparent plastics,” he added.
He warned bakers that resisted price reductions saying they were shooting themselves in the foot and risked pricing themselves out of the market.