THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has resorted to flour rationing to avert possible bread shortages as the country battles a crippling shortage of wheat, its worst cereal crisis since independence in 1980.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
Bread flour supplies nationwide have fallen below 50% while the supply of self-raising flour for alternative, low-cost home-based bread-making is reportedly around 30% of market demand.
GMAZ chairman Tafadzwa Musarara, in a letter to millers seen by this paper, said the association had suspended flour supplies to biscuit and confectionary baking entities to prioritise bread production.
Already six processors, including Victoria Foods and Unifoods, have suspended operations, unable to secure enough wheat supplies.
The list of companies that have suspended operations also includes Wheat Star, Power Foods, Falcon Foods and Oriental Milling.
Musarara said flour rationing had been prompted by low national wheat stocks, which have fallen to unsustainable levels. He said the GMAZ had seen it prudent to allocate available wheat stocks towards bread production to enhance food security. Priority items also include self-raising flour for home-baking.
“It was in the nation’s best food security interest that bread supplies improve nationwide for the benefit of all households. In view of the foregoing, you are, therefore strongly advised that with immediate effect.”
“For the next 14 days, suspend flour supplies to biscuit and confectionary baking entities and prioritise Lobels, Baker Inn, Proton, Natbake, Oceans Bakery, Central Millers and Bakery and Major in store bakeries (Spar, TM, PicknPay, OK,”Musarara said in the letter.
These bakers, according to the National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe (NBAZ) market survey, account for 95% of bread supply to the market.
GMAZ said the situation will be reviewed on Monday October 15 when both local and imported wheat supplies are expected to have improved.
The country, currently producing less than a third of its national wheat requirements estimated at 350 000 tonnes to 400 000 tonnes per annum, relies largely on imports for the staple cereal.
National output is this year is projected at about 100 000 tonnes, which would be a significant improvement on 2017’s 20 000 tonnes, but way below national demand.
The flour shortage has been aggravated by a structural shortage of foreign currency to finance wheat imports.
“This low supply predicament is being aggravated by some flour supplies allocated to biscuit and confectionary baking which are of lesser importance,” added Musarara.