Government and bakers have agreed to reduce the price of bread from $2,20 to $1,80 a loaf, while Cabinet has approved a multi-million dollar package for businesses affected by the recent violent demonstrations.

Although the cumulative figure earmarked for the businesses is being finalised, Bulawayo will get $19,5 million.

Industry and Commerce Minister Nqobizitha Ndlovu yesterday said top officials from his office engaged bakers’ representatives last Wednesday over the recent  increase in bread prices, which saw a standard loaf fetching $2,20 from the previous $1,40.

Government has since stepped in by making a commitment to increase foreign currency allocations to bakers.

Wheat stocks at the Grain Marketing Board, Minister Ndlovu said, have since improved, and this is expected to ensure the availability of flour, a key ingredient in bread-making.

After Government’s intervention, bakers resolved to slash bread prices by 40 cents.

“They (bakers) promised that they will make bread available at a more reasonable price of $1,80. All the key challenges faced by bakers have been dealt with, so we must see a change on the bread shelves,” said Minister Ndlovu.

The baking industry argues that high operating costs involved in the repair and maintenance of equipment are putting pressure on bread prices.

Furthermore, competing demand for foreign currency is making it difficult for industry to access enough allocations from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabweans consume close to 2 million loaves of bread per day.

Although the country needs 400 000 tonnes of wheat annually, local farmers are only able to produce half the amount.

Relief for businesses

Separately, Minister Ndlovu, who leads an inter-ministerial committee appointed by President Mnangagwa to assess the damage caused by violent protests organised by the MDC-Alliance and its civil society partners, told The Sunday Mail yesterday that Cabinet last week approved a package to assist affected businesses.

The inter-ministerial committee – comprising Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa; Minister Ndlovu; Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza; Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry; and Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana – last week toured Machipisa Shopping Centre in Highfield, Southlea Park Police Station, the Skyline tollgate and Kamunhu Shopping Centre in Mabvuku.

Another tour is earmarked for Gweru and Bulawayo tomorrow.

Minister Ndlovu said while exact amount of financial resources needed by all the affected businesses is being finalised, it has since been resolved that Bulawayo will get $19,5 million, which will be used for re-stocking, refurbishment of equipment and the physical infrastructure.

“We met Bulawayo businesses which were affected by the violent protests and they gave us their needs and we will make sure they get the money to restock,” he said.

The Minister explained that the money was a loan which was supposed to be handled in a transparent manner.

“This is a Cabinet provision to cushion businesses. Let it be clear that this is not compensation. This is a cushion for businesses so that they continue running,” said Minister Ndlovu.

“As Government, we were worried about the future of the affected business, hence the need to support them to keep afloat.”

Government set up the inter-ministerial committee to assess the level of damage to business infrastructure and the quantum of losses, including coming up with strategies to alleviate the plight of the affected households and to assist in the recovery of the affected businesses.

Industry estimates that prejudice suffered as a result of the violent protests amounts to more than $500 million.

Companies and individuals that lost property to the marauding demonstrators are finding it increasingly difficult to recover since insurance firms do not compensate property destroyed during riots.Sunday Mail