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Zimbabwe's Grain Monopoly Tightens Access to Food

The Grain Marketing Board that now exercises a virtual monopoly over the distribution of maize, maize meal, wheat and flour in Zimbabwe has announced the suspension of direct sales of grain to individuals. The GMB said the move is intended to relieve the acute shortage of such staples, but critics say it a de facto rationing measure.

GMB officials said the suspension of grain sales to individuals is intended to frustrate the diversion of grain by syndicates which resell it on the black market for profit.

Under its new rules, only farmers, hospitals, prisons and other such institutions will be allowed to purchase grain from GMB depots and stores. GMB spokeswoman Muriel Zemura said the agency is doing all it can to supply shops whose shelves are bare.

But opposition figure Renson Gasela, an ex-Grain Marketing Board general manager now the spokesman on agriculture for the faction of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Arthur Mutambara, says the GMB has simply run out of maize.

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