Bread supply in Zimbabwe plummeted drastically in June as wheat stocks receded while the much needed foreign reserves to replenish stocks remain scarce. Market watchers foresee a prolonged bread shortage on the market bemoaning the current over-reliance on the Central Bank for foreign currency allocation.
There is an acute shortage of bread in major towns as Zimbabwe’s wheat reserves continue to plummet. In the four key cities of Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Gweru, there is little or no sign of popular bread brands that make up 90% of the market.
The Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) said it has engaged the government to improve the situation. “We are also jointly working with the bakers in engaging the authorities on a number of issues that would improve bread supplies,” said the association.
The leading bread maker Lobels told industry and commerce minister Mangaliso Ndlovu that it had resolved to suspend some of its operations because of wheat shortages. According to the GMAZ, the association needs $12.5m from the government to import wheat to avert a catastrophe. “We have 30,000 metric tons of wheat in Beira, which needs to be paid for. US$12.5m is needed urgently so that the wheat can come,” said GMAZ spokesman Garikai Chaunza.
Government figures indicate that $100m is required annually for wheat imports. The $12.5m needed could get over six weeks’ supply of the cereal because annually Zimbabweans consume 500,000 tons of wheat. However, the government believes that the shortages are man-made. Ndlovu told journalists that the shortages could be because of “sector issues or wars”.
A senior executive at a confectionery company told TimesLIVE that producing bread is no longer viable because of the government’s strict control over the product. “We now make more buns and other delicacies that are deemed as luxury because their prices are not under the watchful eye of the government,” he said.
The government initially hoped to improve the wheat situation, which is largely due to forex shortages, by increasing support for winter wheat farming. Some 90,000 tons of wheat were targeted under the government-funded National Wheat Contract Farming Committee (NWCFC).
However, farmers in Mashonaland East failed to plant wheat because the programme was marred in confusion. The deadline set for planting was May 31, but most of them have not yet received any communication from the ministry of agriculture.
Zimbabwe is suffering from the twin effects of drought and a cyclone that wrecked the eastern parts of the country. That means the country needs to import food using scarce dollars, which will put further pressure on the exchange rate and prices, analysts say.