THE First Choice Wholesale concept launched by President Mugabe in Mt Darwin last week is expected to transform lives of marginalised rural communities through a supply of basic goods at affordable prices. The First Choice Wholesale is a brainchild of the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development headed by Minister Sithembiso Nyoni.
Under the First Choice Wholesale initiative, the ministry through its department of co-operative development, links some manufacturers of locally produced goods with a nationwide network of distributors or co-operative warehouses.
Manufacturers supply First Choice Wholesalers with a wide range of products at minimal cost. The wholesales in turn feed rural shops with goods at reasonable prices.
This means rural shop owners no longer travel long distances to buy their wares cutting on transport costs and reducing prices of their commodities. For example at the First Choice Wholesale (Mt Darwin), a two litre bottle of cooking oil was selling at US$3 only on Friday. The price is even lower as the same product costs nearly US$4 in Harare. This applied to a wide range of other products on sale.
First Choice Wholesale had goods worth over US$70 000 in stock as of Friday last week. It is working with a chain of manufacturers among them Tregers.
Minister Nyoni said the creation of businesses such as First Choice Wholesale would ensure that money generated in a particular area was spent in that area.
“We have 316 wholesales of such a kind throughout the country. It is a supply chain of quality goods made in Zimbabwe. It has started at growth points and rural shops. We chose to work with co-operatives because they have big warehouses. We want to have one stop shops,” she said.
Of the 316 warehouses countrywide, only 60 are currently operational.
Zimbabwe National Co-operative Federation national president, Mr Mike Duru, hailed the development in an interview with The Herald on the sidelines of the launch.
“We are empowering the co-operative movement while at the same time bringing goods to the people,” he said.
Mr Duru said the co-operatives work under the supervision of the parent ministry to avoid abuse by greedy individuals who might buy goods in large quantities and resale them at exorbitant prices. He said a lot of business partners were expressing interest in the First Choice Wholesale initiative. Over 24 000 people are benefiting from the Mt Darwin First Choice programme.
An estimated 400 000 are expected to benefit from the project nationally when completed.
The establishment of First Choice Wholesale comes at a time when 86 warehouses have closed throughout the country.