In a letter written by the Association to the Reserve Bank requesting funds to cover outstanding payment for wheat imports‚ it was revealed that the country’s remaining supply of wheat was less than 36‚000 tons.
Despite the country producing its highest tonnage (185,000) of wheat since 1965, this is still way below the requirement of 450,000 tons per annum.
Too little too late?
A US$20m gratuity from the Reserve Bank has meant the country was able to cover outstanding monies owed to the importers; however, it is questionable whether the wheat will arrive in time to prevent the country running out of bread.
A bread shortage would result in millions going without a basic staple.
The country has been experiencing foreign currency shortages following a divided opposition since the fall of dictator Robert Mugabe’s regime. This has put pressure on the government to pay for critical imports ranging from drugs to electricity.
The foreign currency shortages meant millers could not pay Holbud Limited, a UK-based distributor of grains, for a shipment of 200,000 tons of wheat from Canada and Germany.
The distributor threatened to return it to the suppliers with costs.
“If we don’t receive the full payment‚ we will be forced to divert the vessels and refund the amount transferred after deduction of banking charges to the account it was originally received from‚” said the distributor in a letter to the millers’ association.
Holbud has since been paid and the wheat is reportedly now arriving in Mozambique.
Early this year, the price of bread was increased 10 cents to US$1 after local bakery companies argued that they were barely breaking even in the face of a bad economy.
History repeating itself
The current situation emulates a similar scenario that occurred in Zimbabwe in 2007.
The agricultural ministry announced the country’s wheat harvest was only about a third of what is required, while imports were being held up because of a shortage of hard currency to pay for it.
The agriculture minister, Rugare Gumbo, blamed the food shortages on black farmers who took over formerly white-owned land.