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Zimbabwe Plagued by Bread Shortage - 2002-07-01

Many shops in Zimbabwe's capital have run out of bread because there is no foreign currency to import some of the ingredients.

Many towns and villages in Zimbabwe ran out of bread two weeks ago. Now it has happened in the capital.

Bakeries say they are receiving only one half their normal flour supplies, and there is no salt or sugar which are needed to bake bread.

Salt is imported, and President Robert Mugabe has threatened to nationalize the major salt importer, National Foods. He accused National Foods, which is a subsidiary of the London-based Anglo-American Corporation, of hoarding salt and sabotaging the economy.

National Foods says the controlled price of salt means it would have to sell the commodity at a loss. The company also says that if it is forced to sell its stocks at the controlled price, it will deplete its salt supply in two weeks.

Zimbabwe's grain producers' association says the country's flour, already in short supply, will be used up later this month. And then there will be no bread at all because Zimbabwe has no foreign currency to import wheat.

Wheat needed for flour is already in short supply because Zimbabweans could not get their staple food, maize, and turned to bread instead.

Economists in the private sector say the ongoing food crisis in Zimbabwe is a result of the massive disruption to commercial agriculture started 28 months ago when supporters of President Robert Mugabe began invading commercial farms. The commercial farms produced most of Zimbabwe's food and earned 40 percent of the country's foreign currency.

Meanwhile, a game farmer, Ron Raub, has become the first American to die in Zimbabwe's ongoing political and economic crisis.

Mr. Raub, a medical doctor, came to Zimbabwe about 10 years ago. He was kidnapped from his house in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawyo, and police say he appears to have been beaten to death. His body was found early Monday, about 137 kilometers from Bulawayo, and his vehicle is missing.