Zimbabwe is experiencing a dire shortage of basic commodities as inflation soars to its highest levels in almost a decade.
In addition to debilitating fuel hikes and shortages – which led to deadly protests in January – Zimbabwe’s economic woes are rapidly intensifying, exemplified by dismal bread deficiencies, hyperinflation and a flailing new currency scheme.
Fears of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe
On Tuesday, government workers took to the streets of Harare to protest what they term ‘slave salaries’. Unions, representing teachers, nurses and other public servants, gathered outside the finance ministry offices in the capital. According to union leaders, salaries have not been adjusted in accordance with the inflation rate.
On average, civil servants earn 500 Zimbabwe dollars – approximately R2000.
Citizens, financially crippled by the economic calamity, are faced with further imminent issues, in particular, a growing bread shortage. Earlier this month, the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe called on all bakers in the country to refrain from producing cakes and biscuits amid the scarcity of flour. Attention, instead, was to be diverted to the production of bread only.
Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of Africa, consumes approximately 1.4 million loaves every day.
The illegal bread trade
This bread shortage has resulted in a flurry of criminality. According to locals, the ‘illegal bread trade’ in Zimbabwe has boomed, leading to exorbitant prices and exploitative practices. Armed robbery of bread vans has also increased.
In June, a gang of armed robbers pulled off a ‘bread heist’ in Harare, coming away with 500 loaves, ostensibly destined for the illicit market.
According to Tafadzwa Musarara of the Miller’s Association, the central bank had released more than $7 million to import wheat stored in Beira, Mozambique.
A loaf of bread now costs almost 4RTGS (Zimbabwe Dollars), making the nation’s staple food more of a luxury than a necessity. The average Zimbabwean earns less than 20RTGS a day.