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Price of Maize Meal Soars in Zimbabwe As Supply Chain Breaks Down

The price of mealie-meal, the staple food of Zimbabwean households, has more than doubled in recent days to Z$1,300 for a kilogram from Z$500 previously.

Economists attributed the price surge to a severe tightening in supplies of maize meal, which they blamed on mismanagement by the country's Grain Marketing Board.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made has acknowledged that maize is rotting at the side of rural roads because the GMB has not arranged transport from producers.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 tonnes of maize were reportedly sitting at the Beitbridge border crossing to South Africa for lack of funds to settle import contracts and fuel to transport the grain to where it is needed in Zimbabwe.

South Africa Grain Information Services General Manager Anna Enslin said Harare has imported 88,000 tonnes of maize since the beginning of May. But other sources said imports have tapered off recently because of fuel shortages which have been exacerbated by government pressure on resellers over alleged price-gouging.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with chief economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute, about the problems at the Grain Marketing Board.

The GMB says meanwhile that it will spend Z$15 million to expand its national chain of bakeries.The state-run Herald newspaper reported Thursday that four GMB bakeries are already operating in the cities of Marondera, Bindura, Masvingo and Mutare.

GMB Chief Executive Samuel Muvhuti said the expansion falls under the agency’s so-called commercialization program which comprises milling, food packaging and baking operations. He denied the GMB is threatening existing bakeries, noting that the GMB got into milling and baking in 1996 after existing players failed to meet demand.

For perspective on the GMB's controversial strategy of vertical integration , reporter Carole Gombakomba turned to investment and management lecturer Isaac Kwesu of the University of Zimbabwe Graduate School of Management.

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