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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
Zimbabwe 'running out of bread'
Zimbabwean woman holds money and a loaf of white bread
Bread shortages could further boost inflation
Reports from Zimbabwe say bakeries have run out of flour and there will be no bread in the foreseeable future.

The Agriculture Ministry has confirmed that this year's wheat harvest yield of 145,000 tonnes is only one third of the country's requirements.

Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo is quoted as blaming the shortages on the failings of what he called the "new farmers" created by the land reforms.

Last week, the government announced it would import 100,000 tonnes of wheat.

But even that would still leave Zimbabwe short of its 400,000 tonne target for this year.

And it appears that a shortage of hard currency has already stranded a shipment of 35,000 tonnes of imported wheat at the Mozambican port of Beira.

Last week, Zimbabwe's main bread producer Lobels Bread said it had scaled back its operations by 80% and had only two days' supply of flour left.

The AP news agency says stores across Zimbabwe are now telling customers that bread will not be available until further notice.

The blame game

The Sunday Mail newspaper in Zimbabwe reported that this year's production was badly affected by erratic power supplies that resulted in some farmers completely abandoning their crop at germination levels because of the failure to irrigate.

Other reports quoted the agriculture minister as pinning the blame on farmers.

field of wilted maize in Zimbabwe
This year's maize harvest is expected to be dire

Speaking last Thursday at the Zimbabwe Farmers' Union (ZFU) national congress in Masvingo Minister Gumbo said: "I am disappointed that our new farmers have proved to be failures since the start of the land reform programme in 2000."

"In spite of all the support government has been pouring into the agricultural sector, productivity and under-utilisation of land remain issues of concern," he added.

And he admitted that he was "painfully aware of the widespread theft of stock, farm produce, irrigation equipment and the general vandalism of infrastructure by our new farmers".

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union director Mr Phillip Tavuyanago told the Sunday Mail the failed harvests meant wheat farmers would be heavily affected in terms of paying back loans accessed during the winter programme.

Critics have blamed President Mugabe's policies, especially the seizure of farms from their former white owners, for ordinary Zimbabweans' hardship.

A foreign currency crisis has helped push inflation to record levels in recent months.

Government price controls have been blamed for worsening shortages.

For his part, President Mugabe has accused foreign governments of trying to interfere in Zimbabwe's affairs - saying some businesses had raised prices without justification as part of a Western plot to oust him.

Your comments:

"There is virtually nothing in the country not bread, let alone clothing. All the main shops are empty. Bread is only found at the State House."
Bee Nyikayedu, Rusape

"I was in Zimbabwe just recently and can confirm that the economic situation there is deplorably in shambles. Most bakeries have halted operations and people are relying on backyard bakeries to supply tiny tasteless buns on the market. This is in Chi-town."
Jatirofa Nyororo, Pennsylvania, US

"I have just returned from three weeks in Zimbabwe. There were just three occasions during that time I was able to buy some form of bread: The day after we arrived I found myself near a reasonably short queue (50 people) for bread rolls. I spent 30 minutes in the queue before walkiing away with six bread rolls. A few days later my mother in law and I queued for one hour during a local supermarket's "pensioners' day" - we bought another 12 rolls. The following day while buying ice at a garage a load of bread was delivered - we were not restricted and I managed to buy bread for my mother and four of our employees."
Sarah Todd, Izmir, Turkey

"I was in Zimbabwe three weeks ago and I witnessed the bread situation. Since I had gone home to visit my relatives, I had the time and patience to queue for bread and was lucky enough because I could drive from one place to another. I queued in different shops and places in Harare, Chitungwiza and Mutare. I only managed to get bread twice and it was limited to one loaf per person. My relatives have told me that they last ate bread about two weeks ago and that they can't be bothered looking for it anymore because it's just not available.
Sam, Northampton-UK

"The only place I have seen bread for sale in the past month was at a store run by a senior ruling party official who, obviously, doesn't have to comply with the price controls imposed on every other business in July. We bake our bread at home because we're lucky enough to be able to buy flour and salt across the border - that is when we have electricity. The lights just came on in Harare after today's 18 hour blackout.
Anon, Harare, Zimbabwe

"We have bread here, in fact I never missed bread. Why all this negative image about Zimbabwe all the time? Of course we have problems just like any other country.
Peter, Harare, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe flour shortage warning
05 Sep 07 |  Africa

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