Residents of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, are in a frenzy over possible milk shortages as some retail shops have run out of the commodity. A survey at retail outlets in Bulawayo revealed that some shops had completely run out of fresh milk, leaving consumers scrambling to find alternative sources.

While big retail shops were found to be out of 300ml and 500ml fresh milk, OK and Greens supermarkets had the products available. However, the situation was much different in the capital city of Harare, where milk products were readily available on store shelves.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Bulawayo regional officer, Comfort Muchekeza, confirmed that there were indeed shortages of fresh milk and pasteurised fresh milk in the city. “This has been happening for some time and the shortages are not only on milk products but other products as well. Consumers are now being short-changed in the sense that consumers have rights to access products,” he said.

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Muchekeza went on to explain that product shortages often lead to a thriving black market, and urged wholesalers to ensure that milk products are brought back to the market. He also noted that the consumer law of demand dictates that an increase in demand for a product leads to an increase in prices as well.

The National Consumer Rights Association advocacy and campaign adviser, Effie Ncube, added that the scarcity of dairy cows in Zimbabwe has led to the current milk shortages. He warned that this may trigger a rise in milk prices, making it more difficult for the majority of Zimbabweans to access milk products and maintain a balanced diet.

“The challenge is that there is a shortage of dairy cows in the country. There is a need for capacitation of farmers so that they have sufficient cows and stock feeds,” he said. “The second challenge arises from a lack of capacity when it comes to the processing of milk. As a result, prices will go up, meaning it becomes okay for the elite while the majority of Zimbabweans will not have access to milk products and a balanced diet.”

In the meantime, Bulawayo residents are being forced to turn to alternative sources of milk, such as powdered milk or imported milk products. However, many are concerned about the quality and safety of these options, and are calling on the government and industry leaders to take action to address the shortage and ensure a stable supply of fresh milk.

As the situation in Bulawayo continues to unfold, residents are left wondering if and when their milk will return to store shelves. In the meantime, they are being forced to make do with what little is available, as they hope for a resolution to the crisis.