HARARE – The cost of one of the most basic foodstuffs — bread — is set to increase by over 100 percent despite government’s attempts to heavily regulate the price without offering any subsidy to bakeries.
Lobel’s, which runs one of the country’s largest bakeries, advised its customers that the retail price of both a standard and family loaf of bread had gone up by over 100 percent with effect from yesterday.
In fact, all the three big bakers namely Baker’s Inn, Proton and Lobel’s that control more than 80 percent of the bread market mulling an increase in their prices.
As a result of the planned increase — which the ministry of Industry and Commerce has stayed pending a meeting with bakers tomorrow — a standard loaf will be going for $2,20, up from $1,10.
The increase is understandable and unavoidable, given that the prices of flour, sugar and other baking ingredients have increased threefold in the past weeks with no corresponding increase in the prices of bread.
Following economic policy interventions by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, prices have suddenly shot up following a slowdown in annual inflation during the first half of the year.
The drastic increase will definitely have an effect on the poor, those on the brink of poverty, the elderly and those who depend on social benefits.
For them, this increase is no trivial matter.
Bread is still a powerful symbol, as it was in the famous riots that helped spark the French Revolution. Government must heed public anger over the rising cost of bread, and indeed other basics, which producers blame on rising input costs.
Equally worrying is that the gap between rich and poor has become glaring in Zimbabwe, with the opulent villas in leafy suburbs standing in contrast to the poverty of squalid homes in the ghettos.
There is a political powder keg out there over these increases. The incessant increase of basics is fast shaping up as a major test of Zimbabwe’s fledgling democracy. Hope is dissipating in the country, and the reaction is: if even bread is not spared, what is there to look forward to?
Bread is the most common type of product sold by bakers in Zimbabwe and is a considered a “must-have” for breakfast by most families.
At least 70 percent of breakfast diets in the country contain bread.
Its daily demand stands at between 800 000 to one million loaves per day. Bread competes with other starch products such as rice and sadza.
The fast approaching festive season is set to be a gloomy one for consumers owing to the high cost of basic goods.