The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has reportedly released US$7 million for the payment of 19 000 metric tonnes of wheat bonded in Beira, Mozambique which is expected to meet the country’s flour requirements albeit for only two and a half weeks.
Zimbabwe requires 400 000 metric tonnes of flour per year to meet its requirements.
This payment will temporarily ease bread shortages, as bakeries said they had run out of flour and some took advantage of the temporary shortages to increase bread prices.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairman Tafadzwa Musarara, confirmed the latest payment by the central bank.
“The 19 000 metric tonnes of wheat will cover the national flour requirements for the next two and a half weeks and the National Railways of Zimbabwe is in the process of loading the paid consignment which will start trickling into the country next week. The situation is expected to improve the supply of flour starting next week,” he said in a statement.
GMAZ was also negotiating with RBZ to secure payment for another consignment of 60 000 metric tonnes of cereal in Mozambique.
“We have another consignment of 60 000 metric tonnes of cereal in Mozambique whose payment we are negotiating with the central bank to settle so that the country does not run out of wheat,” confirmed Musarara.
Wheat consignments are stored at Beira port and at a warehouse in Harare but are only released upon payment.
Since bakeries have no access to foreign currency they cannot pay for their own imports and rely on millers who can access the hard currency.
Meanwhile, one of the country’s oldest bakeries, Lobel’s Bakery has closed down its Bulawayo plant a, few days after closing its Harare factory.
Employees were told to go home and wait further instruction.
Lobel’s Bakery reportedly ran out of flour stocks and also failed to access new supplies while the cost of bread production continues to increase.
This negative setback was worsened by electricity cuts which rendered the bakery ineffective.
According to reports, Lobel’s Bakery employed about 500 people in Bulawayo and 900 in Harare.
Bakers Inn, the country’s biggest bread maker, has reduced production by over 80 percent and is expected to announce a price increase within days. A loaf is expected to sell for RTGS$6, up from the current RTGS$3.50.