THE Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has said the cost of the family basket of six jumped from $58 284 at the end of November 2021 to $72 967 (approximately US$365 on the parallel market) last month, representing 25,19% jump.
In a video presentation, CCZ acting executive director Rosemary Mpofu cited rising inflation particularly school uniforms as the major driver of the hike in the cost of living.
“The cost of living for a low-income urban earner family of six basket as measured by the CCZ increased from the end of November’s $58 284,24 to $72 967,01 by end of December showing an increase of 25,19%,” Mpofu said.
“The food basket increased by $2 785,17 from $2 217,65 by end of November 2021 to $23 494,26 by end of December 2021. Most prices of basic commodities have actually increased but the increase to the family basket of the month of December can be attributed to education expenses, mainly school uniforms which increased by 229,33% from $3 750 to $12 350.
“Inflation was the major driver of the price increases, so was the price of fuel as well as the influence of the exchange rate and speculation by consumers which fuelled demand for commodities.”
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu said the increase in the price of uniforms was not justifiable. He said retailers were not solely to blame as the cost of living was a collective responsibility with everyone now chasing after the US dollar, driving up the parallel market exchange rate.
“We have always raised concerns over the continued increases in the price of school uniforms which is not congruent with the income earnings throughout the year 2021. However, blame on the increases cannot be cast on the retailers, they are only part of the value chain of the economy.
“The parallel market exchange rate contributed to the general rise of the price of goods and commodities. Everyone has an insatiable quest for the United States dollar and that influences price hikes.
“The problem of price hikes should be informed with a balanced perspective which will help policymakers focus on and address the real problem.”
But economist Thomas Bhiri said retailers were justified in raising prices as their cost component which includes wages was ever fluid.
“Retailers need to pay expenses such as salaries, rentals among others. Workers continue to push for higher salaries owing to inflation and hence the prices of commodities such as uniforms also tend to rise,” Bhiri said.
The hike in school uniforms also comes at a time when parents and teachers have expressed concern over a 150% to 350% hike in school fees, especially at private boarding schools.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou said the approved boarding school fees for 2022 ranged from $75 000 to $160 000, which was beyond the reach of most families.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president Obert Masaraure added: “The government should avail grants to all schools to help them recover from COVID-19 shocks. Children of teachers should be exempt from paying fees.”