Zimbabwe’s wheat crisis worsens, as millers suffer serious headwinds

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By Andrew Kunambura

ZIMBABWE could soon be hit by a serious bread shortage after supplies dwindled sharply over the past few weeks as international prices soar.

This crisis was triggered mainly by the ongoing armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the two largest wheat producers in the world.

The conflict has resulted in at least 20 major wheat producers suspending exports to counterbalance their own internal demands.

Sources in the industry said Thursday the country could soon face a massive deficit given growing difficulties to procure the grain from outside the country.

The situation is not being helped by the fact that the Zimbabwean dollar, which local millers are selling flour for, has significantly lost value as compared to the United States dollar demanded by suppliers.

This, industry sources said, explains the monumental headwinds choking millers.

“Millers are currently experiencing serious headwinds as the wheat international prices continue to soar and this is being worsened by the weakening of Zimdollar and reduction in wheat allocations,” an executive with one of the top milling companies in the country said.

“International wheat prices are now close to breach the USD700/mt mark, as more than 20 grain producing countries have suspended exports. The local currency has weakened from US$1:ZW$178 to US$1:ZW$349 since the last bread flour increase in local currency.”

“At the same time, the local wheat allocations are now being made six to seven weeks apart, instead of every 4 weeks. In essence it’s, a drop of local wheat supply of 35% to 25%. Imported wheat contribution has risen from 30% to 75%,” the source said.

Efforts to get official comments were fruitless as calls to both Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development minister Anxious Masuka and his deputy Vangelis Haritatos were not getting through.

The ministry’s permanent secretary John Bhasera was also unreachable while information minister Monica Mutsvangwa was not answering calls.

Her deputy, Kindness Paradza referred questions back to Masuka, Haritatos and Bhasera.

Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe chairman Tafadzwa Musarara was also not reachable for comments.