By Willie Mponda
The ever rising price of bread in the country caused by mainly shortage of foreign currency to import wheat has forced players in the bakery industry to cut production of bread by 50% consumed on a daily basis.
Industry and Commerce Minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu (Pictured) said it was Government’s priority to ensure bread is affordable for every Zimbabwean and his ministry was currently engaging the baking sector on the issue of availability as well as the pricing.
However, an agricultural economics expert, Dr Edward Mutandwa said domestic wheat production in the agricultural sector was of poor quality to make quality bread for the market.
“Since domestic produced wheat has poor quality for bread making because it is too soft whereas hard wheat imports are required to improve the glistening of the local wheat product to make quality bread.
The milling sector in Zimbabwe has to supply bakers with flour of consistently acceptable quality and generally test their wheat flour so as to effectively blend weak flour with strong ones to produce acceptable flour quality,” he said.
Dr Mutandwa added that, the milling industries have been complaining about the evil of cheap imports of wheat flour.
“Normally, imports are supposed to complement (not substitute for) local supply. In Zimbabwe, however, wheat flour imports have replaced local flour produced from local and imported wheat.
The country requires 20 000mt of flour per month for bread making, industrial uses and confectionary. Flour imports coming from Turkey, Mozambique, Russia and Asia have flooded the market causing the local industry to operate at 30 per cent of capacity,” he said.
He stated that, wheat flour is being imported at a lower price compared to the source, thus making Africa and Zimbabwe a dumping ground for low quality wheat.
“Wheat flour is coming in at prices much lower than the normal price at source; which is the same as dumping and is in violation of Article 4 of the World trade Organization’s Anti-dumping Agreement and Article 18 of the SADC Trade Protocol. For instance, wheat flour from Turkey is costing USD 493/t in Zimbabwe, compared to USD 580/t at source (Istanbul).
Some countries give export incentives (subsidies) to their nationals which enables them to export below cost. As if that is not enough, the quality of the cheap imported wheat flour is below specifications and contains illegal additives like bromide and soya mix. The actual quantities that are being imported are not known and so are the brands,” Dr Mutandwa stated.
Meanwhile, DCK Gweru’s branch manager Alden Mutariri was of a different opinion saying his company was using local wheat to make standard loaves of bread using 100 percent locally produced wheat and ingredients.
Mutariri explained how he is managing to produce 5 000 loaves on a daily basis supplying the city of Gweru market.
“We are currently providing bread to the community using our locally produced wheat. We buy wheat from other farmers. We are currently supplying Gweru only as our capacity at the moment is limited. We have two bakeries that are working 24 hours a day which are using local wheat from GMB,” he said.