The price of a loaf bread in Zimbabwe has nearly tripled following issuance this week of a government directive allowing bakers to raise their prices. The decision capped weeks of confrontation and discussion between officials seeking to enforce price controls and baking firms facing losses as operating costs steadily climbed.
A loaf of plain white or brown bread that formerly cost Z$295 now goes for Z$800, a 170% increase. So-called super white bread now fetches Z$1,200.
Bread prices had become a highly charged issue in recent months. In late October the government arrested two baking firm executives for charging more than was officially allowed for bread. Both were convicted and sentenced to four months in jail, but appealed the court decision and were released pending a final decision.
Business expert Dennis Nikisi, director of the University of Zimbabwe School of Management, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the rise in bread prices was inevitable and the new prices were more realistic.
Bread is not the only commodity that is becoming more expensive in a holiday season that does not feel very festive at all to many Zimbabweans.
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said a family of six had to spend nearly $246,000 or around US$985 at the official exchange rate to meet its needs in food and other basic commodities, a 17.7% rise from the November consumer basket.
The council found sharp rises in consultation fees at most clinics and hospitals. It also noted that shortages of sugar and flour drove their prices up on the parallel market - where consumers unable to find them in stores were obliged to obtain them.
Economist Godfrey Kanyenze of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the surge in costs will be felt into 2007 as December salaries must pay first-term school fees.