Retailer and consumer boards have expressed distress over the increase of bread flour price by the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) earlier this month.
The price went up by 6,25% from ZWL $112 000 to ZWL $119 000 per metric tonne, a move retailers and consumers argued was done without consultation.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers chief executive officer Mr Denford Mutashu said there was need to solve the financial crisis.
“It is key to stabilise the local currency that seems to be depreciating in value against the USD on the parallel market that economic agents no longer treat as imaginary despite the existence of the official auction market,” said Mutashu.
He added that government needed to take responsibility and stop the blame games.
“There is need for government to engage and stop the blame game. The only way to resolve the issue is to engage each other and resolve the challenges faced by business.
“The previous administration took the route of treating business as the enemy and promulgated draconian policies meant to ‘punish’ business and led to further economic instability.
“We should not fall into the same trap. It is important to protect the domestic investment by sorting out the issues confronting business and labour with the understanding of the key role government plays in the matrix,” he said.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) acting director Ms Rosemary Mpofu concurred adding that major baking companies should review bread prices.
“The 15% increase in bread prices is too high. At the beginning of this year, people were complaining about increases in the price of stationary, uniforms and school fees.
“The three major bakers in the country, Bakers Inn, Lobels and Proton all increased bread prices but their overheads are not the same. Prices should show that suppliers are competing. What it means is that they are not competing and they do not care about the consumers,” she said.
Ms Mpofu questioned the discrepancies in the manner in which the pricing is stipulated against the official bank exchange rate.
“Why is it that their pricing is following the black market rate when they get United States dollars at a cheaper rate? The price of USD$1 is ZWL $210, and therefore using the RBZ exchange rates, bread should cost at least ZWL $150, yet it has gone up to ZWL $210 per loaf,” she said.
A survey by Review and Mail observed that consumers were feeling the impact of the price hike.
Chipo Marunda from Glenview said bread has become a luxury which she cannot afford.
“I come from a big family and we require four loaves of bread for breakfast. It is expensive for me to buy bread every day. We have resorted to having porridge for breakfast,” she said.
“Ever since the bread price hikes, I have not been able to buy bread for my family. It breaks my heart because my three children ask me why I no longer buy bread and this makes me feel bad as a parent,” said Gibson Kuchineyi from Mabvuku.
GMAZ justified the price hikes and attributed them to the upward movement of exchange rate on the auction, increase in fuel, maintenance and running costs, increase in use of substitute source of power due to intermittent ZESA supplies, increase in costs of labour and the increase in the price of imported blending wheat.