By Daniel Phiri
LOCAL sanitary wear manufacturers have blamed the prevailing foreign currency shortages and increases in raw materials prices for the astronomical increase in Sanitary pads and wear prices.
In Zimbabwe there are currently two companies that manufacture sanitary pads, Onsdale (Farai sanitary pads) and Refreshing Sanitary Pads (Happy Sky pads).
In an interview, Refreshing Sanitary Pads general manager Collen Sakala said the price increase is beyond their control as they are responding to economic factors obtaining on the local and international markets.
“The increase was necessitated by an increase in prices of raw materials from 16 to 30 percent on the international market. The escalating of US Dollar rates locally is also affecting our prices we are not getting enough foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe therefore we are forced to go to black market.
“On our part we increased the prices by 10 percent and we believe this issue can only be solved by increased allocation of US Dollars to the manufacturing companies or remove the local currency (Bond notes) and leave the other currencies,” he said.
Most of the raw materials used in the manufacturing of sanitary pads are however not available locally and they come from South Africa and China and are currently being imported duty free.
However, last week there was a public outcry following reports in the media that the companies had increased the prices of their products despite this duty free regime.
Zimbabwe is currently experiencing foreign currency shortages owing to low exports earnings, externalisation, and lack of lines of credit and low levels of foreign direct investments among many other challenges. This has resulted in the central bank coming up with a list of priority with regards to foreign currency utilisation; however most of the companies in the manufacturing sector have not been getting enough foreign currency, thereby forcing them to go to the black market.
US Dollar on the black market where it is readily available is fetching a premium of something between 60 to 100 percent.
Outspoken legislator and women’s rights advocate Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga has spoken strongly in the National Assembly about the need to reduce the cost of sanitary ware to enable girls from poor background to access them.
Other legislators such Temba Mliswa is calling for free distribution of sanitary pads in the same manner as condoms are being distributed, adding that failure to access sanitary pads affect girls especially in terms of their education and self esteem.
Three weeks ago Women Affairs and Gender Development Minister Nyasha Chikwinya told Parliament that her ministry was talking to manufacturers of sanitary pads with a view to have them manufacture affordable pads.
Meanwhile, the Refreshing Sanitary Pads general manager has called on government to intervene strongly on the issue of foreign currency allocation, adding that they are currently not worried about competition from imported products.
“We need government support at the moment, whether or not the price increase will result in opening room for more imported products into the market, there is nothing much we can do about it, but on the other hand competition is also health for business,” he said.