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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Huge rise in Zimbabwe inflation
Zimbabwean children eating rations of beans
Four out of five Zimbabweans live below the bread line, analysts claim
Zimbabwe's rate of inflation surged to 3,731.9%, driven by higher energy and food costs, and amplified by a drop in its currency, official figures show.

April's inflation rate jumped up from the 2,200% recorded last month, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) said.

The announcement came after Zimbabwe's government created a commission charged with finding a way to curb the country's spiralling cost of living.

There is high unemployment, and fuel and food shortages across the nation.

Price increases to 'worsen'

The surging cost of domestic electricity, food, fuel and commuter transport fares were at the heart of last month's price surges, the CSO said.

Economists believe that these price increases will continue because Zimbabwe will be forced to import maize, a basic food staple, to make up for a lack of home-grown produce.

The government has also recently warned of shortages of bread and flour, which may cause even more hardship.

The BBC's Peter Biles said that only 10% of the country's winter wheat crop had been planted due to shortages of fuel and fertilizer.

Last week, households in Zimbabwe were told they would be limited to four hours electricity supply a day in a move designed to support the country's wheat farmers, who need power to irrigate their crops.

Economic crisis

Rampant inflation is a clear sign of a deep economic crisis, analysts said.

Critics have blamed President Robert Mugabe's policies, particularly the seizure of white-owned farms, for damaging the once self-sufficient country - in the past described as the bread basket of Africa.

President Mugabe, meanwhile, has accused foreign governments of trying to sabotage Zimbabwe's economy and topple him.

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