LOCAL manufacturers of sanitary pads have scaled down operations owing to costly imported raw materials, especially from China and South Africa, raising fears that the product might not be readily available to local consumers at reasonable prices.
The country is now overly reliant on imported finished products.
One of the major local producers, Onsdale Enterprises — which trades as Farai Family Products — told The Sunday Mail that capacity at its manufacturing plant has since dropped by more than 80 percent.
Last year, Government suspended customs duty and removed value-added tax (VAT) on sanitary wear for the 12-month period to November 2019 to cushion underprivileged women and girls.
The intervention was expected to give local manufactures the time to recover.
Onsdale Enterprises marketing manager Paddington Mupfururirwa told The Sunday Mail that raw materials needed to produce sanitary wear are very expensive, hence their plant has since been forced to run at 15 percent capacity.
“Under normal circumstances, the company has to produce an average of seven million sanitary wear per month, but we have scaled down to less than a million per month.”
The company, he added, was currently carrying out research on materials that can be used to produce reusable alternatives.
Notwithstanding Government’s move to waive duty and VAT through Statutory Instrument (SI) 264 of 2018 and SI 265 of 2018, respectively, retail outlets continue to raise prices of the product.
Of late, prices have risen from $3,45 to $17,99, while tampons are now quoted at $20,59, up from $3,59.
MDC-T legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, who has been pushing Government to provide free sanitary wear in schools, said there was need for a legislative framework to make the products available for learners.
“Although the Government has introduced duty-free for sanitary wear, the prices are being determined by the interbank market (foreign exchange rate), which is sometimes at the rate of 1:10.
“I am putting efforts so that Government put in place a legislation to introduce free sanitary wear to schools so that students continue going to school even during their menstruation cycle.
“The economic situation is also affecting the production of sanitary wear in our country because of expensive raw materials needed for production,” she said.
Women’s Action Group (WAG) director Edna Masiyiwa said soaring prices of sanitary wear are putting women’s health on the line.
“Sanitary wear should be available on the market and it should be affordable in local currency in both the urban and rural areas.
“The general population is no longer affording the health-recommended sanitary wear as most workers’ salaries have not been increased.
“There are no other healthy and hygienic alternatives to sanitary wear, hence we would like to negotiate with those who sell and produce sanitary wear to bear with women in price tagging.”
It is believed that there is a socio-economic cost for failure to make sanitary wear readily available, especially to girls of school-going age.
There have been reports of learners who miss school during their menstrual cycles.