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Zimbabwe to Roll Back Prices of Staples to Pre-lockdown Levels


FILE: Women chat near posters advertising food prices outside a shop in Harare, Zimbabwe. (REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko - RC199935AA00)

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s government agreed with bakers, millers and other businesses on Wednesday to cut the prices of basic goods, including bread and sugar, to levels before the country entered a coronavirus lockdown last month amid soaring inflation.

Annual inflation in the southern African nation has hit 676.39%, one of the highest rates in the world, as a currency that was re-introduced last year weakens amid acute shortages of foreign currency, food and medicines.

Vice President Kembo Mohadi said the government had agreed with bakers, grain millers and edible oil and sugar producers, among others, that price increases seen in the last month were speculative and unjustified.

“The multi-sectoral stakeholders committed to a price moratorium to operate based on the prices which were applicable on the 25th of March,” Mohadi told reporters.

Zimbabwe’s plight has been compounded by its failure to provide a stimulus package due to a tight budget and because it cannot access loans from international lenders due to longstanding arrears.

The country first announced a 21-day lockdown on March 30 and extended it by another two weeks to May 3.

In a country where more than 80% of the working population work in the informal sector, the lockdown has left many families caught between staying at home and risking hunger, or venturing out on the streets to try to eke a living and risk contracting the coronavirus.

More than 2.54 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and 177,004 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

On Wednesday, Zimbabwe registered just its fourth confirmed death from the coronavirus. And only 29 people have been confirmed as testing positive. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Nick Macfie)

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