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Zimbabwe Bread Makers Seek More Than 100% Price Increase

Chairman Murombo Mudhumo of the Zimbabwe Bakers Association said Thursday that his group has notified the government it wants to raise the price of a loaf of bread to Z$700 dollars from Z$295, an increase of nearly 140%. At the same time, the executive warned bakers might seek a further rise if flour prices surge again.

Senior officials in the Ministry of Trade's interim price stabilisation committee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they have taken the matter to the cabinet, which will deliberate on the question and issue a directive on the price of bread.

The government is also moving to create a so-called Incomes and Pricing Commission which as envisioned would generate pricing models for goods and services.

The requested increase comes on the heels of a surge in transport costs of more than 60%. Basic commodities like milk, sugar and cooking oil have disappeared amidst the quarrel between government and industry over prices. The dispute led recently to the arrest and conviction of two bakery executives on charges of exeeding official prices.

The two executives, one of whom was Mudhumo, were sentenced to four months in prison. Mudhumo is appealing the decision and has been released on bail.

Economist Eric Bloch told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that such Draconian measures are simply making longstanding shortages worse by giving business people a Hobson's choice of losing money or possibly going to jail.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...