HARARE, The Zimbabwean government has lifted a two-and-a-half-month ban on soybean imports to improve supply of cooking oil in the country.

Zimbabwe has in recent days experienced an artificial shortage of cooking oil after consumers engaged in panic buying following social media reports about imminent shortage of several basic commodities caused by foreign currency shortages.

The Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe (OEAZ) president Busisa Moyo was quoted by the Herald newspaper Wednesday as saying that the government had lifted the ban on soybean imports to avert possible shortages.

Moyo said despite the oil manufacturers facing foreign currency shortages, they had enough stocks and advised consumers not to engage in panic buying, hoarding and speculative purchases.

The oil manufacturers required at least 5 million U.S. dollars per week to import soyabean, crude edible oils and other raw materials to meet the national demand for oil and related products, Moyo said.

However, foreign currency supplies had been trimmed to less than 1.5 million U.S. dollars per week as the central bank battled to allocate enough forex for all critical imports.

Social media reports surfaced at the weekend, warning of an imminent shortage of basic commodities, triggering a wave of panic buying and hoarding by consumers.

Fuel queues also re-emerged, as fewer service stations sold the commodity. In the recent days, retailers have also increased the price of basics, citing more expensive foreign currency on the parallel market.

The social media rumors ignited fears of a return to the hyperinflationary era of 2008 when acute shortages of basic goods and fuel was experienced in the country.

The government, however, has sought to reassure the nation that no shortages will occur as it is trying its best to allocate enough resources for critical imports.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has allayed growing fears fueled by social media rumours that there will be a shortage of basic commodities due to the current foreign currency shortages.

RBZ governor Dr John Mangudya dismissed the messages, saying these were meant to cause panic and despondency.

Peddling of such fake news is quite unfortunate. There are no shortages of basic commodities. On the contrary, foreign exchange currently being allocated for basic and essential commodities has instead been increased to ensure that shortages of commodities do not occur within the economy, he said in a statement.

Zimbabweans should refuse to be hoodwinked by fake social media statements designed to increase premiums on the parallel markets by misguided rent seekers.

The governor added; In addition, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development did not print bond notes to buy U.S. dollars from the streets. Such malicious statements are counter-productive and are meant to sabotage the economy that is on the rebound on account of the good agricultural out-turn, strong performance of the mining sector and the recovery of the manufacturing sector.

Zimbabwe is battling to contain a cash crisis, caused by externalisation and hoarding among other things, which has resulted in the resurrection of the money changing business which had ended after the introduction of the multi-currency system.