Millers allay bread shortage fears during festive period as $60 000 wheat imported

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By Staff Reporter

Mutare: THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has allayed fears of a looming bread and flour shortages during the forthcoming festive season, telling the media in Mutare weekend that the group has just imported 60 000 tonnes of wheat to meet the demand.

GMAZ chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara visited Forbes Border post on Sunday to receive first batch of haulage trucks transporting wheat from the port of Beira to Harare.

The trucks are complementing the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) which is overwhelmed by a bulk wheat consignment being offloaded at Beira Port, said Musarara.

“We have imported enough supply to meet the festive season demand. We are expecting a consignment of 60 000 tonnes of wheat in the next few weeks to cover the festive season. Bread demand is about 1; 7 million a day thus requires us to supply 900 tonnes of flour to bakeries every day.

“We still need to deal with biscuit companies, confectionery and self-raising flour to enable those who want to bake. RBZ has commitment on the next shipment which is expected to dock in a few weeks,” said Musarara.

He said the delays in movement of wheat into the country were caused by late payment of the supplier by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

“Ordinarily, we should have three months cover at a given time. We are consuming 40 000 tonnes a month. This means we should have 120 000 tonnes in our reserves so that whenever there are problems to do with ports or payments, the country won’t feel it.

“In this case, we have been feeding from the ship to the baker and it’s not healthy. It’s dangerous in instances like these, even after payment, the logistic will fail you and the market is now starved,” said Musarara.

He added: “We had serious payment delays for wheat coming to Harare and at one time, a cargo with 30 000 was held at Beira pending payment. This was done but we disturbed the offloading schedule of the ship and movement of wagons from Beira to Machipanda.”

Musarara said they were complimenting the rail transport with road to boost supplies in Harare.

“We have 160 trucks which have started loading from Thursday. It is very expensive and dangerous exercise as you know a convoy of trucks can cause accidents. This will cost us $32 extra per tonne which means each 30 tonne truck will cost us extra $1000.

“NRZ is battling to move the wagons and they are moving 20 wagons daily against the requirement of 60 wagons a day needed to normalise the situation for bread and flour in the country,” said the GMAZ chair.

Musarara said out of eight suppliers of wheat, the country is now left with one due to legacy debt amounting to $80 million.

“The legacy backdates from 2015 and we are currently working with one supplier who wants his cash upfront before they offload at Beira Port. The legacy debt is not only affecting millers but across other companies.

“We have $80 million which is wheat, mince, rice and salt. Thus, the major four products that we have been getting supplies and supplied to retail industry, we got paid but we can’t remit due some logistical challenges. We have spoken to the Governor (RBZ) and he has given his word that he is going to look into the matter,” he said.

He said they were anticipating receiving wheat from local farmers to boost the supplies but they will continue importing wheat for bread.

“We need to build reserves because the local wheat harvest may delay in light of diesel challenges. The actual movement of wheat from farms to GMB may delay as well,” he said.

According to Musarara, the country has imported $6 billion worth of maize and wheat since 2005.