Photograph — Littlerock.com

In a bid to address bread shortages in Zimbabwe, the government has revealed plans to engage a bakery in the production of standard bread with only locally produced ingredients.

The country has been grappling with persistent bread shortages on the market coupled with price increase pressures due to reliance on imported materials. Local bread makers have also demanded autonomy in the pricing of staple food.

“In the context of the Buy Zimbabwe Campaign, it has proved by one entrepreneur that local wheat can produce bread at a cheaper price without the need of importation of ingredients,” Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa said earlier this week.

According to reports, a loaf of bread costs between RTGS $1.80 and $2.50 depending on where one is buying the product. “In light of this information, cabinet will consider various options to ensure that consumers throughout the country obtain bread at affordable and viable prices,” Mutsvangwa added.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing a shortage in foreign exchange earnings amid its currency crisis and this has affected the importation of goods to the country.

According to the Industry Minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu, millers are indicating that they cannot have bread using wheat only. Although local wheat is available to millers, producing quality bread flour requires imported grain to be blended with local varieties.

Last week, there were complaints that the country was left with a week’s supply of flour stocks owing to recurrent foreign exchange shortages to import the necessary ingredients.

100 percent local

The industry minister said he was able to convince his cabinet colleagues to look at other ways of producing a cheaper loaf of bread using local wheat only.

“I was able to demonstrate that we do have millers and bakeries that are using 100% local wheat and we have decent bread. We want to encourage the usage of local wheat under our Buy Zimbabwe programme,” he said.

Ndlovu further revealed that the country will continue to grow its local wheat and there will be experimental studies to see if there are other variations to the wheat that are grown.

“We are not saying we will no longer be accepting wheat that is being imported for variations. Those who want to import will be able to do that,” Ndlovu said, adding that the unnamed local baker will be able to supply wheat at affordable prices.

The bigger picture

Zimbabwe’s economy has been ailing for over a decade now as both cash and basic goods are increasingly in short supply.

Between September 2018 and January 2019, maize grain prices increased between 50 and 200 percent, FEWS NET, a U.S.-funded food security and malnutrition watchdog said. While the prices of sugar, wheat flour, and bread rose between 35 and 100 percent, and cooking oil by over 300 percent during the same period.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation has said 2.4 million people, about 28 percent of the rural population, will be food insecure by this March, largely as a result of “reduced output and low purchasing power”.

Shortage of food and other products has been blamed on the controversial land reforms that displaced most commercial white farmers and rewarded black peasant farmers. Most of whom had no experience or the resources to work on the land.

More so, most companies import their raw materials resulting in high demand for foreign currency, with the central bank struggling to allocate foreign exchange to critical industries, including food manufacturers and fuel importers.

Amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserves, local manufacturers have complained about the inability to import raw materials to continue production which has already been crippled by the fuel shortages. Last December, Zimbabwe’s biggest food processing company, National Foods Limited, said it was closing its wheat mills because it could not import the commodity amid foreign currency shortages.

With the introduction of the new currency, it is hoped that the government succeeds in its efforts to stem rising prices, cash shortages and short supply of food and basic products.

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