According to the latest figures by ZIMSTAT, Zimbabwe’s month-on-month inflation rate in May 2022 was 21.0% gaining 5.5 percentage points on the April 2022 rate of 15.5%. The year-on-year inflation rate (annual percentage change) for the month of May 2022 as measured by the all items Consumer Price Index stood at 131.7%. The CPI for the month ending May 2022 stood at 6,662.17 compared to 5,507.11 in April 2022 and 2,874.85 in May 2021.

Baffled by this technical speak? All this simply means that prices are rising at a higher rate than they were last month. There is no surprise there really a quick visit to your local grocery shop will confirm this. We have a situation where basic commodities like maize meal and cooking oil have been hard to find in supermarkets due to shortages. The only shops which seem well-stocked are the downtown entities also known colloquially as “tuck-shops”.

However even these have seen a spate of price increases even though they sell exclusively in USD. USD price increases are exceedingly rare in Zimbabwe where most spikes in prices can be easily attributed to the slide in the local ZWL currency. In fact, price decreases in USD are not uncommon. Price reductions in ZWL are virtually unheard so much so that every time you hear a business talking of reviewing its ZWL prices you can expect price increases rather than the opposite.

The worst is yet to come

While we are already in the throes of a deepening economic crisis the worst is yet to come. Events and developments on the global market suggest that there is going to be a catastrophic global food crisis and Zimbabwe is one of those vulnerable countries. Even though we were the breadbasket of Africa at some point our agricultural sector, despite vain boasts by the powers be, is a pale shadow of itself. We import a lot of food items. The government recently attempted to stem the tide by scrapping duty on certain import items but this will be a drop in a very large bucket.

There does not seem to be any plan on how to handle this oncoming crisis. The current line is that we have enough grain and basic items. Experience shows that such utterances hardly ever correspond to the facts on the ground. When the government claims to have enough medicines in hospitals you can expect to find none. When the government said it had plans to combat COVID it turned out there were none. When the government said they had a plan to fix the effects of the 2018-2019 drought they meant 20-hour power cuts. So our pessimism is well earned in this regard.