A SERIOUS wheat shortage has hit Zimbabwe with the countryâ€™s stocks literally wiped out and this has already started being felt by ordinary consumers who this week experienced a huge hike in the price of bread and bread-related products.
The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has no wheat stocks forcing the country to rely on imports from Mozambique and South Africa.
Industry sources said wheat imports for this week amounting to 6 000 tonnes were far less than Zimbabweâ€™s weekly consumption of 7 500 tonnes.
A total of 1 000 tonnes were in transit from Mozambique while 3 000 tonnes were expected from South Africa.
Harambe Holdings chief executive David Govere told businessdigest that serious bread shortages would soon be experienced in the country.
Govere said the shortages would result in even higher inflation induced by the ensuing food shortages.
“This means that the elections are going to be held in an environment of serious food shortages which will result in even higher inflation induced by shortages,” Govere said. “Even if additional wheat were to be paid for this week, it will take three to four weeks to finally result in bread sold on the market,” said Govere.
Govere said there was an estimated residual 20 000 tonnes of wheat stuck on farms which could not be delivered because of the low prices currently being offered by the GMB.
GMB is paying just $42 million for every tonne of wheat delivered by farmers while farmers are demanding in excess of $1,5 trillion a tonne. International wheat prices are in the region of US$630 a
tonne ($1,8 trillion at the interbank rate).
Govere said government needed to raise enough foreign currency to secure the wheat and quickly move it to millers.
He said government had to move away from concentrating on the input side to increasing producer prices and output incentives.
“The last five years has shown that supporting agriculture through inputs leads to abuse, diversion, corruption and speculation with little or no bearing at all on outputs,” Govere said.
GMB managing director Albert Mandizha was said to be at a funeral while acting MD, Zvidzai Makwenda would not take a call from businessdigest.
His secretary promised he would return the call but he had not done so at the time of going to press.
Zimbabweâ€™s wheat harvest has been a serious disaster.
The crisis has been compounded by unfulfilled promises of payment to wheat farmers made by the Reserve Bank.
Several farmers started 2008 still waiting for their payments from the 2006-2007 winter wheat season with some pledging not to farm anything this year.
Farmers have only planted 8 963 hectares of wheat which was 13% of governmentâ€™s target of 70 000 ha and 53% less than the total hectarage put under wheat in the 2006/7 farming season.
Agricultural minister Rugare Gumbo confessed last month that farmers had missed the target and according to him, this had been a result of shortages of fertilisers, fuel and frequent breakdowns of tillage facilities.
Before Zanu PF members and allies invaded white-owned farms, Zimbabwe used to produce close to 400 000 tonnes of wheat.
Bread shot up on Wednesday evening from between $750 million and $900 million a loaf to prices between $1,7 billion and $2 billion as the effects of the wheat shortages and the hyperinflationary environment began to be felt.
By Kuda Chikwanda