The government has embarked on a fact finding mission to assess elements leading to basic commodity shortages and price instabilities with a view to restore sanity in the country’s markets.

The new Minister of Industry and Commerce Honourable Nqobizitha Ndlovu caught industrialists, wholesalers and retailers unaware in Harare today by visiting their operations without appointment.

His mission was to find out real factors causing commodity shortages, pricing distortions, mismatch between demand and supply of goods, challenges affecting industry among other factors.

An executive for Pure Oil Industries Mr Roddy Musiwa said during the minister’s surprise  visit at the company, that panic buying, hoarding of cooking oil by some unspecified traders, as well as the influx of unscrupulous middlemen allegedly buying cooking oil and reselling it to neighbouring countries is leading to artificial shortages of the product.

“We are really concerned over what is happening but it is just out of control such that we can’t blame ourselves,” he said.

Wholesalers have also not been spared by the limited foreign currency to procure goods and the thriving parallel market has created pricing distortions in balancing revenues and capital to order new stock, said Trade Centre manager Mr Nyasha Bayipayi after Minister Ndlovu’s surprise visit to the centre.

“It is not really something we can cry about because we know the real factors and how they can be solved in the future,” he said.

Pricing distortions are inflicting a burden to the local consumers thereby threatening economic development, notes Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu.

“It is something we are really worried about and we just anticipate something to be done,” he said.

The surprise visits to the country’s commodity and distribution value chain was an eye opener for the government to focus on pricing stabilisation and increased availability of products, says Minister Ndlovu.

“While we might not be in a position to give finer details it is just a matter of time before we can address other challenges,” said the minister.

The surprise visit to industries, wholesalers and retailers by Honourable Ndlovu comes at a time when government has assured the public of continued monitoring of prices and the allocation of foreign currency to strategic commodities to restore profitability.