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Zimbabwe Bans Export Of Basic Goods In Effort To Secure Supplies

The Zimbabwean government has banned the export of a number of basic commodities for the next 12 months in an effort to bolster dwindling domestic supplies.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority official as saying that commodities including beans, rice, candles, sanitary pads, cooking oil, milk, flour and maize meal were barred from export effective immediately. The order followed the lifting of import duties on such commodities four months ago in an effort to boost supplies.

Staple foods like maize meal and bread are in short supply and very expensive. United Nations food experts say 5 million Zimbabweans could need food assistance by early 2009.

Executive Director John Mufukari of the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the government had no choice but to impose the export ban, but that this would only provide temporary relief.

Meanwhile, registration for beneficiaries of the central bank's National Basic Commodities Supply-Side Intervention program or Bacossi began this weekend in Harare’s high-density suburbs, but some voided concerns that distributions might be politically biased.

The government said the program is intended to ensure that all families have access to basic goods whose prices have soared beyond the reach of many Zimbabweans.

Bacossi beneficiaries receive a hamper with small quantities of cooking oil, flour, rice, sugar, washing powder, soap, toothpaste and sanitary pads, and a bottle of Vaseline.

The Herald quoted Governor David Karimanzira of Harare metropolitan province as saying that in more prosperous low-density suburbs, the registration teams consisting of government officials would initially register only domestic workers such as gardeners and maids.

But Information Officer Justice Mavedzenga of the Combined Harare Residents Association told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that his group is concerned that the registration teams include supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party, as this in CHRA's view could compromise equitable distribution as most residents of high-density suburbs back the opposition.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...