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Zimbabwe Dollarization Puts Food, Other Basics Out Of Reach Of Many

The spreading dollarization of the Zimbabwean economy with more and more stores demanding hard currency for even the most basic goods and services has enormously complicated the struggle for survival for many people.

Ten kilograms of maize meal, a Zimbabwean staple food, went for US$7 while a bottle of cooking oil fetched US$5 this week - if shoppers could produce greenbacks.

Even if stores would accept Zimbabwe dollars, those prices when converted into the local currency at prevailing rates amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, this at a time when even those with incomes can only withdraw Z$50,000 a day from the bank.

Economists say dollarization has taken hold because retailers and other businesses want to preserve the value of their receipts in the face of hyperinflation that was last measured by Zimbabwean authorities at some 231 million percent.

The Reserve Bank has licensed about 1,000 stores to price their goods in U.S. dollars, South African rand or other hard currencies, but the central bank was only legalizing a practice that was widespread. Rents are also widely set in hard currency.

Economist Nyasha Muchichwa of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the dollarization trend is aggravating the food security crisis gripping the nation.

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