Govt to crack whip on pricing cartels

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Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Christopher Yaluma

BUUMBA CHIMBULU writes

@SunZambian

GOVERNMENT will not condone the behaviour by some businesses engaging in price collusion and abusive of dominance for essential goods such as cement.

The State through the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is therefore currently conducting investigations across various sectors.

This is to assess whether there are possibilities of price collusion, abuse of dominance and any cartel practices leading to sudden increases in price.

Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister, Christopher Yaluma, expressed concern at the increase in prices for a number of consumer products as well as increases in prices of raw and intermediate products.

Notable among these are consumer products such as sugar, wheat flour, edible oils dairy products, poultry and meat products and other essential commodities such as cement which have recently increased by more than 50 percent in the last 12 months.

For instance, a 50 kg bag of cement was selling at K95 in January, 2020 and is now selling at K130, 2.5 litres of cooking was selling at K60 and is now selling at K96  and 2kg packet of sugar that was selling at K29 is now selling at K45.

Mr Yaluma told Journalists in Lusaka yesterday that his ministry was concerned over the sharp increases as they affected the welfare of consumers as well as industry that depended on inputs from other industries or players in respective value chains.

He regretted that some of the business entities had taken advantage of the current unfortunate circumstances and were engaging in price collusion and abusive of dominance.

“The ministry is concerned with these sharp increases as they affect the welfare of consumers as well as industry that depends on inputs from other industries or players in respective value chains,” Mr Yaluma said.

He said Government had noticed a trend of pricing of commodities and services, in particular, raw materials and rental charges, in foreign currencies by various players.

The law, Mr Yaluma said, provided that the legal tender in Zambia was the Kwacha.

“Government will not condone this practice as this has negative effects on inflation and cost of doing business in the country and undermines macroeconomic stabilisation efforts,” he said.

He said Government had taken keen interest in looking into factors that contributed to these price increases.

Mr Yaluma indicated that Government had therefore been in dialogue with industry and different private sector associations to have an in-depth understanding and look for lasting solutions.

He said to deal with the current scenario, Government had instituted investigations with the CCPC across various sectors.

Mr Yaluma said this was meant to assess whether there were possibilities of price collusion, abuse of dominance and any cartel practices that are leading to these sudden unjustified increases in price.

“The ministry remains committed to working with the private sector and other key stakeholders in creating a conducive environment for business to thrive and improving consumer welfare,” Mr Yaluma said

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