Read and Weep.
Zimbabwe's food crisis deepens as leading bakery forced to shutCris Chinaka and Nelson Banya in Harare
Thursday September 6, 2007
GuardianZimbabwe's main bakery said yesterday that bread shortages would worsen after closing one of its biggest outlets due to a lack of wheat, deepening a food crisis which a UN agency said was "acutely serious".
The closure followed the government's recent admission that it could not afford to pay for wheat from Mozambique.
Amid an economic crisis with runaway inflation and chronic food and fuel shortages, Robert Mugabe's government had planned to buy 36,000 tonnes of wheat from its neighbour to ease the bread shortage.
Lobels Bread, the country's biggest bread producer, has only two days' supply of wheat and has been forced to cut daily production to 40,000 loaves from 200,000 loaves in May, Lemmy Chikomo, the firm's operations director, told state media.
Mr Chikomo said that Lobels had shut its bakery in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second biggest city, on August 25 and had sent home hundreds of workers at its main factory in the capital, Harare.
"Flour availability has deteriorated, and this has forced us to use our strategic stocks since May. Now we are only left with two days' supply," he said.
Officials from the state-owned Grain Marketing Board, which is responsible for managing national wheat and maize stocks, were not immediately available for comment. The World Food Programme's Zimbabwe representative, Kevin Farrell, said it was seeking an additional £50m to deliver grain to southern districts, which are suffering most from the shortages.
Mr Farrell said a visit he made to the region showed the situation was getting "acutely serious".
"We aim to have, for distribution, just about 300,000 metric tonnes and we have about 60% of that, including pledges and donations," he told reporters after receiving a $3.5m (£1.75m) donation from the Canadian embassy in Harare.
Critics accuse Mr Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, of mismanaging the economy and destroying the agricultural sector through his government's seizure of white-owned commercial farms.
The seizures, which began in 2000, saw some of the country's most fertile land handed over to black people without farming skills and led to a drop in agricultural output in a country that once exported food to other parts of Africa.
Mr Mugabe accuses the west of sabotaging Zimbabwe's economy in retaliation for the seizures and working with the opposition to oust him. The economic crisis has worsened in the past three months, with the government imposing a price freeze on many consumer items to try to control inflation, currently above 7,600%.
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!