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Millers, bakers clash over bread price

A war of words has erupted between grain millers and bakeries over bread prices.

Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) chairman Tafadzwa Musarara yesterday said it was not appropriate for bakeries to continue importing wheat at a time the country is struggling to secure foreign currency for essential services.

“The National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe (NBAZ) has notoriety of threatening price increases as an extortionate means to arm twist government to give in to their demands,” Musarara said in statement.

“It is simply a ploy by some bakers who want to profiteer from cheap imports at the expense of our economy.

“The savings obtained on cheap flour has not been extended to the millions of consumers.

“It, therefore, begs a question, who is benefitting from these cheap wheat flour imports? It’s simply a profiteering gimmick that borders on economic sabotage,” added Musarara.

GMAZ concerns follow agitation by the bakers’ association for a review of the import ban on flour.

Musarara, however, said bakers are free to embark on backward integration by acquiring milling plants — existing or new —  or alternatively own wheat and have it toll milled.

“These are better alternatives to reduce costs of flour and are consistent with national interest and objectives of localising production.

“The quality of their products remain the country’s best and the consumer’s favourite.

“This is testimony that, after a more than $34 million retooling exercise carried by local millers, local flour has not only improved but compares favourably with other flour produced internationally,” he added.

The seasoned grain miller noted that any claims that local wheat flour has to be blended with imported wheat flour on the grounds of its poor quality was not only misleading but also untrue.

The latest development also comes at a time the government has committed to extend the Command Agriculture to winter wheat farming so that the country is self-sufficient.

Agriculture experts said the programme will be complemented by the ongoing contract farming by private sector.

It is envisaged that results of these two programmes would see all the available land under irrigation taken up for winter wheat farming.

Official preliminary indications show that 2017 winter wheat production will surge to above 200 000 metric tonnes.

“The multiplier effect of this local farming to the seed houses, fertiliser companies, chemicals, labour and mechanisation is tremendous.

“This huge harvest will require market space if wheat farming has to continue at that scale,” Musarara added. Daily News