Govt Tries To Block Bread Price Increase But Millers And Bakers Remain Defiant
17 April 2019
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Minister Monica Mutsvangwa addressing journalists on govt intervention on price increases

GOVERNMENT yesterday called on the Bakers’ Association of Zimbabwe to reconsider its position to hike the price of bread and allow for consultations to take place first before any increase is effected.

Yesterday, a loaf of bread was being sold for RTGS$3,50 up from RTGS$2.

This comes as Government on Monday night injected 20 million litres of fuel into the market to augment supplies ahead of the Easter and Independence holidays that begin tomorrow.

Of the 20 million whose distribution started on Tuesday night, diesel constitutes 12 million litres while the remainder is petrol.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, told journalists after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that the bread price hikes, whether by design or otherwise, could dampen the people’s mood ahead of the holidays.

She said move was also against Government’s efforts to engage with all stakeholders, business included.

“The Minister of Industry and Commerce presented to Cabinet a letter by the Bakers’ Association of Zimbabwe, stating their intention to immediately hike the price of bread without any recourse to consultations with the Government as is the normal procedure,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.

“Of particular concern to Cabinet also is the timing of the planned price increase, which is coming exactly two days before the national Independence celebrations. Such a move, whether by design or otherwise, certainly has the effect of dampening the mood of the nation. Furthermore, the unilateral action does not bode well to ongoing efforts by Government to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders, business included, with a view to creating a stable environment where businesses can compete and thrive.

“It can be recalled that on 29 October 2018, His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa met with business leaders at State House where he stated that Government has an open door policy and stands ready for any engagement and consultations in order to ensure that the economy stabilises. As such, unilateral price hikes, particularly on basic commodities that our people cannot do without is not in consonance with the spirit of mutual engagement that Government is encouraging.”

She went on: “Cabinet, therefore, calls on the Bakers’ Association of Zimbabwe to defer the planned hike in the price of bread in order to allow the normal mutual consultations to take place. The consultations are aimed at facilitating a clearer understanding of the issues of concern and to explore solutions thereto.”

On fuel supply ahead of the holidays, Minister Mutsvangwa said: “The Minister of Energy and Power Development Minister informed Cabinet that measures have been taken to ensure that there will be adequate fuel supply with an injection of 20 million which has been uplifted as from last night (Tuesday night). This means there will be enough fuel in the country as we go towards Easter and Independence holidays. There will be enough fuel for all to attend independence celebrations and also for those who may want to travel for Easter.”

She said enough fuel was also available for the 2019 Zimbabwe International Trade Fair which runs from April 23 to 27 in Bulawayo.

Energy and Power Development Minister Joram Gumbo said the fuel injection was meant to supplement current supplies.

“Our daily consumption of fuel at the moment is about three million litres of diesel per day and two million litres of petrol per day,” he said.

“The 20 million litres injection which started to be uplifted as from last night is an addition to the normal fuel that we normally receive in the market. As far as we are concerned, people must be able to enjoy the holidays without any hitches.”

Enhanced travel during the holiday period means more fuel would be required than the usual consumption.

Meanwhile, Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Cde Raj Modi yesterday condemned the latest round of price hikes that have seen the price of bread going up to RTGS$3,50 from RTGS$2 while a 10kg bag of mealie meal now costs RTGS$11,85 up from the recommended retail price of RTGS$6,30.

He said Government has noted with concern rampant price hikes and would soon act on the matter.

“We have realised that prices are going up very often and most commodities are now beyond the reach of consumers. We are working on something to address that matter and we will reveal the details soon. The public must know that we are aware and we care about the consumer and we are doing something,” said Cde Modi.

In a telephone interview from Harare yesterday, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) spokesperson, Mr Garikai Chaunza, said millers had hiked prices by over 50 percent with effect from Monday.

This came after millers wrote a letter to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce last Friday, notifying it of the price adjustments.

“We adjusted our prices with effect from Monday the 15th of April in line with the new producer prices announced by government. We then sent a letter to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, notifying the ministry of the new prices,” said Mr Chaunza.

He said the new prices had been communicated to bakers, millers and retailers.

In its letter to the Industry and Commerce Ministry, GMAZ said its new prices would come into effect on Monday.

“We welcome the recently announced wheat and maize prices and marvel at the government effort in balancing viable producer prices and affordable subsidy level. Consequently, we wish to advise the following maximum recommended prices of maize meal and bakers’ flours shall apply effective Monday 15 April 2019,” reads the letter from millers to Government.

The letter states that a 10 kg bag of roller meal would go up to RTGS11,85 from the recommended retail price of RTGS6,30 while 50 kgs of bakers flour goes up from RTGS$45 to RTGS$83.

Yesterday, bread, which has been in short supply in the country over the past few weeks, was being sold for RTGS $3,50 per loaf at most outlets in Bulawayo’s Central Business District.

It was going for as much as RTGS$3,80 in high density suburbs.

However, some supermarkets that bake bread as well as small bakeries are selling it at between RTGS$2,50 and RTGS$3 per loaf.

Bakers Inn was giving its customers the option to buy a loaf for US$0,60 while demanding RTGS$3,50 per loaf for those paying in bond notes. Lobels and Proton bread was also going for RTGS $3,50 per loaf.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has lamented the rising cost of living for an average family on the back of recent increases in prices of basic commodities.

In its latest update, the consumer watchdog said the cost of living for a family of six has increased from RTGS$781,35 recorded in February to $790,77 recorded by end of March.

State Media