Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush

(First appeared in New Era 4 March 2015)

This week I must start my column with feedback from last week when I wrote about the chickens supplied by Namibian Poultry Industries. The company contacted me through their marketing company and invited me to visit their business and get more information regarding the processes used in bringing chicken to the market. Unfortunately, I have to travel out of the country for work and will only be able to take up their offer after the 10th of March. But be assured, dear loyal reader, I will write about it once I have visited the facility and bring you a more informed column in this regard.

The past few months I have seen a greater awareness of consumer protection from not only companies but also the government regulators in various sectors. I must congratulate the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) for their speedy reaction to the MTC N$2 data saga as well as their prompt intervention with the NBC and DSTV regarding the digital television switch over. I am not sure what the eventual result will be regarding the digital decoders and the NBC channel on the DSTV decoders, but I certainly hope both companies come to an agreement to ensure that all Namibians have access to the national broadcaster and our own localised news items. On a personal note I must add that I am not an avid television viewer, but since getting married and having a new-born in the house, I too have become a little addicted to watching the little black box.

One of the consumer issues I have been watching the past few weeks is the drop in oil prices and what the impact will be for our pockets. In early January, the forecast was that consumers could expect a breather as the lower oil prices have led to a decrease in petrol prices which should lead to price drops in other sectors of the economy. This was borne out with our local maize supplier announcing that the price of maize meal would drop by a few percentage points in February. This hope was however soon dashed as they announced late last week that the maize price would be going up by 17% due to the present drought conditions in the country. (The price increase will happen in March 2015.)

Looking into the crystal ball I foresee that more and more prices will increase in the short to medium term as the rain forecasts still indicate another year of drought.

I wish to encourage all consumers to get ready for a tough year ahead and you should look at ways that you can reduce your monthly budget items. In our household, we are already investigating more ways to use our waste water for example in our home garden. The wife and I are looking at a small home (box) garden with some of our favourite spices as well as planting onions in recycled plastic bottle containers. These measures will not make a huge impact, but will allow us to still indulge in some of “niceties” we like to buy.

The budget speech in South Africa also indicate we can expect increases in “sin” taxes for alcohol and cigarettes and I am looking forward to hear how our own budget speech will further impact on the pocket of the consumer. Seeing as the drought is almost certain, I predict the government having to subsidise meat and other agricultural products which will see their prices increase steadily over the next twelve months.

I would thus advise all consumer to avoid big debt purchases such as vehicles, furniture, etc. which cause an increase in debt levels - the Bank of Namibia also agrees and has increased the interest rate accordingly.

Savings is the big word in consumer advice for the next few months if we want to still have a big, traditional Christmas holiday we can afford.

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