Zimbabwe bakery shuts outlet, bread crisis worsens
September 05, 2007, 14:30
Zimbabwe's main bakery said today that bread shortages would worsen after it shut one of its largest outlets due to a shortage of wheat. The move followed the government's recent admission that it could not afford to pay for wheat from Mozambique.
President Robert Mugabe's government, presiding over a deepening economic crisis with runaway inflation and chronic shortages of food and fuel, had planned to buy 36 000 tonnes of wheat from its neighbour to ease the bread crunch.
Lobels Bread, the country's major bread producer, has only two days' supply of wheat and has had to cut daily production to 40 000 loaves from 200 000 loaves in May, Lemmy Chikomo, the firm's operations director, told state media.
Chikomo said Lobels had shut its bakery in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, on August 25 and had sent home hundreds of workers at its main factory in the capital Harare.
Flour availability deteriorating
"Flour availability has deteriorated, and this has forced us to use our strategic stocks since May. Now we are only left with two days' supply," he said.
The situation has worsened in the past three months as the government imposed a price freeze on many consumer items to try to control inflation, currently above 7 600%.
Chikomo said Lobels Bread has been unprofitable since May and had accrued huge debts to keep paying its workers.
Mutasa, who heads a government committee responsible for food procurement and distribution, has not commented further on the crisis, which he and other Mugabe officials blame on Western sabotage and sanctions.
Agricultural experts say Zimbabwe's farmers will probably produce less than 80 000 tonnes of wheat in the October harvest. The country normally needs 450,000 tonnes each year.