Bakers, millers fight over flour imports

Source: Bakers, millers fight over flour imports | The Herald November 18, 2016

Reason Razao Herald Reporter—
A war is brewing between local millers and bakers over flour imports, which local producers say are threatening to lay to waste $15 million worth of locally-produced wheat and suffocating the milling industry which has shrunk by 90 percent in the last nine years.

Some millers said they were lobbying Government to impose stringent measures against flour imports amid claims that the National Bakers’ Association (NBA) executive led by Mr Givemore Mesoemvura is influencing members to import cheap wheat at their expense.

They said some bakers were profiteering by importing the cheap wheat and maintaining the average price of a loaf of bread at between 90 cents and $1, while two of the country’s biggest bakers were still charging the same prices despite using 100 percent locally-produced flour.

“We have Bakers Inn and Proton Bakery, which are two of the country’s biggest bread producers, using locally produced wheat, but still charging the same prices as bakers who are importing.

“Who is benefiting from this? Certainly not the consumer, because the flour is cheap, but the bread is not cheap. We contracted local farmers to grow 80 000 tonnes of wheat and this will go to waste if bakers do not buy our flour. This is a clear case of profiteering,” fumed one miller.

When reached for comment, Mr Mesoemvura said: “It’s not illegal and it’s not a secret that we are importing flour. There is actually a statutory instrument that allows us to do that.

“We agreed with the Grain Millers’ Association in 2012 that we were going to import 50 percent of our wheat and buy 50 percent locally. In 2013, we reviewed that to 75 percent imports and 25 percent local purchases to address quality issues and pricing of flour. What some of those millers are saying is unfounded,” he said.

Local millers have been urging the Government to include all types of imported flour under Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 to subject them to the same import control regime as other products listed under the measure as they seek to arrest further company closures.

In submissions for the 2017 National Budget Statement, the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) said the number of milling companies had gone down from 368 in 2007 to just 37 in 2016, a development mainly attributable to cheap imports of maize meal and wheat flour from South Africa and Mozambique.

“These cheap imports also depressed demand from local grain production, precipitating below cost maize and wheat producer prices and affecting all key players in the grain value chain which includes among others, farmers and packaging industries.

“In order to revive grain (mainly maize and wheat) farming and processing in Zimbabwe as decreed by Zim-Asset, we propose that the importation of wheat flour, maize grits, and maize meal be listed under Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016.

“This is meant to enhance and complement the existing import controls and limit the importation of maize meal and wheat flour,” read part of the submissions.

GMAZ chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara confirmed that some millers had approached his association complaining about the conduct of the NBA executive members adding that they would seek to establish the correct position.

“Some millers have approached us with those claims, but I can’t say with certainty that the NBA are doing that. We are looking into the matter and we will seek remedies if we identify any problems,” said Mr Musarara.

The NBA has said its members are also battling to stay afloat with 107 bakeries having closed shop over the past five years owing to a harsh operating environment engendered by the illegal economic sanctions imposed by the West.

Mr Mesoemvura recently told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Industry and Commerce that bakers were importing 25 percent of their flour and defended the move claiming 100 percent locally sourced flour had challenges related to quality.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 3
  • comment-avatar
    Morty Smith 6 years ago

    Natural justice demands that you buy your flour or bread from whomever you choose. Protecting local farmers so that they can be lazy and inefficient helps a very small number of people at the expense of almost everybody

  • comment-avatar

    There are no sanctions idiots! Anyone is free to invest in Zimbabwe…they choose not to because the country is a disaster area. Would you invest? I WOULDN’T. YOU ZIMBABWEANS DESERVE A KICKING FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE SINCE INDEPENDENCE. You have ruined a wonderful country, and yourselves. Morons!