GOVERNMENT has scrambled to fund wheat imports and avert a bread shortage after a dire warning by millers that stocks could run out in the next few days.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairman Tafadzwa Musarara told reporters on Thursday that the country would receive 30,000 tonnes of wheat next week, following government intervention.
“The Grain Millers Association, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and Ministry of Agriculture have put in place comprehensive contingent measures for the expedited shipment of wheat into the country, commencing Monday next week,” Musarara said.
“GMAZ has successfully negotiated for the movement of 30,000 metric tons of wheat to Beira on an installment pre-payment arrangement.”
A September 4 internal GMAZ memo raised alarm over millers’ inability to pay for wheat deliveries, at a time when major firms’ stocks were running low.
“The available stocks are 28028.116 (tonnes) against a required minimum national three month stock level of 114,000 metric tonnes,” read the memo.
“Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is yet to remit the US$12.45 million to the wheat supplier, Holbud Limited (UK). Holbud Limited has grown impatient and threatens to divert stocks currently at Beira to Mozambique and Malawi millers. I strongly recommend that you alert the powers that be of this predicament as the country is fast plunging into severe flour and bread stock-outs in the next few days.”
Millers, like most other Zimbabwean manufacturers, are struggling to make foreign payments for key imported raw materials due to an acute shortage of foreign currency.
The central bank has, since May 2016, maintained a tight forex allocation regime that seeks to prioritise key imports such as energy and food.
Musarara said the milling industry owes foreign suppliers $87 million for wheat, rice and salt imports.
The country’s wheat output has declined from a near self-sufficient peak of 325,000 tonnes in 2001 to recent levels where output barely matched a month’s consumption.