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Zimbabwe Government Provides Money for Wheat


The Zimbabwe central bank has released $10 million for the importation of wheat after bread disappeared from most shop shelves this week due to a flour shortage.

The move by the bank, reported in the state-controlled daily, The Herald, is being made as bread shortages that started earlier in the week worsen.

Bakers unilaterally increased the price of a standard loaf of bread by more than by more than 50 percent last week to the equivalent of $1.34. The unapproved price hike prompted the government to crackdown on all businesses selling bread at the new price.

The bakers insist the shortage had nothing to do with the clampdown that resulted in a bakery executive being arrested. They said it was the result of the wheat shortage.

A bakers' association official, speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, said bread supply should improve, as there is wheat available in the country. But he cautioned more wheat needs to be imported.

The official also said the availability of wheat is not going to solve their viability problem in Zimbabwe's hyper-inflationary environment. Besides the wheat being expensive, he added, the prices of other ingredients needed for baking bread have increased sharply since the last review by the government. Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate in the world at more than 1,200.

In a related development, 14 businesses have been fined for charging more than the approved government prices or failing to display prices. Businesses cannot increase the price of a number of basics without government approval in Zimbabwe.

Police spokesman Andrew Phiri is quoted in The Herald as saying company directors would be arrested and charged in their personal capacities if they hiked raised without government approval.

Leading businessman Anthony Mandiwanza condemned the arrests, which he described as "unwarranted harassment" of businesses already operating under extremely difficult conditions.

Mandiwanza told The Herald this would delay the prospects of the turnaround of Zimbabwe's economy.

Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe, attending the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly this week in New York, said he did not know the details of the crackdown, but blamed "overzealousness of one or two police, exaggerating their role."

He also told the Associated Press that his controversial land reform program, in which white farmers were forced to turn over their land six years ago, would yet prove successful.

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