Bread price hike looms
The bakers want a loaf of bread to cost around Z$200 000 up from Z$85 000 unless the government intervenes and imports wheat on behalf of millers. But the Minister of Industry and International Trade, Obert Mpofu, immediately ruled out the planned increase until “full and exhaustive” consultations have been carried out. “There has not been any change in the price of wheat sold to the wholesalers so we will not entertain any request in that regard until there is a dramatic change in the supply chain,” he said yesterday afternoon by telephone. “As you know bread is a controlled commodity and we recently increased the price, so we cannot have another increase so soon,” he said. BAZ chairman Burombo Mudumo claimed that there was a shortage of flour on the market and that bakers were now importing the commodity. Mudumo said the cost of imported flour was double that charged by local millers and bakers therefore had no option but to increase the price of bread to keep the industry viable. “A tonne of imported flour costs Z$120 million while locally it costs Z$50 million. “Therefore, as bakers we have to increase the price of bread to save the industry from collapsing,” he said. He urged the government to speed up the operations of the Price Monitoring Commission so that it gazettes the price of bread rather than imposing price controls. In view of the hyperinflationary environment in the country, he said, prices of goods were constantly rising and bread was no exception. “We are calling upon the Price Monitoring Commission to be operationalised soon because it will include representatives from industry. We cannot have a situation where the Government gazettes the prices of goods,” he said. “Prices of goods are going up almost on a daily basis, flour included, but when bakers increase the price of bread there is an outcry. There is no way the price of bread can stabilise in a hyperinflation environment like ours,” said Mudumo. The price of bread has risen from Z$45 000 to Z$60 000 and to Z$85 000 since the beginning of the new year. The general public backed the State’s stance. “At Z$200 000 the price is too high and hence we will not afford bread. This is disappointing as bread is a basic foodstuff to many. The Government must intervene and assist consumers as most bakeries and retailers want to capitalise at the expense of consumers,” said Daniel Siziba. Lydia Ndlovu said the proposed price was “shocking”. “The price of mealie-meal is going down because the maize is in sufficient supply. The same should be done with wheat. Reducing imports will also curb an increase in prices,” she said. Others said recent price increases were not in line with the salaries they are getting and suggested that Government maintain the present price for a considerable time. The Government has set aside 110 000 hectares for the winter wheat crop this year, with each hectare expected to produce five tonnes. ‘ Business Reporter-New Ziana.