By JAMES KUNDA –
THE Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) has said the Government should participate in the production and supply of some essential commodities to the consumers, as a long-term measure to help reduce prices.
ZACA executive director Muyunda Ililonga said the Government’s participation in the production and marketing of essential commodities like mealie-meal would create market competition and ease the price of such commodities.
“For instance; as is the case with Zamtel, Government has provided a platform for competition in the provision of telecommunication services along with private sector players such as MTN and Airtel.
“If this was done in the sectors like agriculture, Government would establish its own milling plants and offer competition in terms of commodity availability and pricing to the private millers,” he said.
Mr Ililonga said overdependence on private milling companies would remain a determining factor in the price of mealie-meal.
He cited countries like Nigeria and South Africa where the respective Governments are running viable agro-processing facilities and competing effectively with the private sector.
Mr Ililonga said ZACA was not advocating Government’s reintroduction of commodity price controls because that would force consumers to spend more on essential commodities which would be in short supply.
“We do not support commodity price controls because this would lead to a commodity shortages and inevitably high prices,” he said.
Mr Ililonga said the reintroduction of price controls would also inhibit innovation and productivity, in the long-run forcing consumers to suffer limited product choice when selecting their basic requirements.
Mr Ililonga, however, called on State consumer watchdogs to effectively monitor unfair trading practices on the local market.
He said the domestic market should not be exploited through high commodity prices and as such, consumer rights groups should charge retailers who were exploiting consumers.