One of the citizens feeling the pinch of rising prices in Zimbabwe is Christine Kayumba. She says she can’t afford to buy bread for her four dependents on her salary of less than $250 a month — because a loaf now costs more than $2.
The high school English teacher says she cooks a bland, thin porridge three times a day, and rarely serves rice as it is now expensive too.
“This price increase of bread has reduced me to nothing,” she told VOA. “I don’t feel I am still the mother figure, the bread winner for my family. Because I am failing to provide, each and every morning they wake up crying for porridge, crying for bread.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, has led to bread prices soaring in importing countries like Zimbabwe. Most impacted are children, said Kayumba, as shortage means they are forced to seek food elsewhere.
“You see bread is something with these children. They want it. Even from next doors, if they see them [neighbors] drinking tea, they will eat there.”
Tafadzwa Musarara is the chairman of the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, which imports grain. He said the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the main cause for the price hike.
“As early as November last year, we were unable to load wheat from that region because political tensions had gone high, and insurers revoked their coverages. This is a supplier who was supplying us with good wheat, accounting for 65% of the wheat that we need.”
Musarara said the impact of the crisis in Ukraine was immediately felt in Zimbabwe. “Suddenly we woke up without that supply… the inflation on the price of bread, the increase on the price of bread is an imported factor.”
Musarara added that a consignment of Zimbabwe’s wheat has been stuck in the embattled Ukrainian city of Mariupol for weeks now. He added that the war is pushing people to look for ways to meet the need in the country. “Now we are making our efforts to see how we can get [it] from other countries. [In] Australia, there is the issue of floods, which affected their agriculture. We are now pushing towards getting wheat from Canada and other countries.”
Andrew Matibiri is the CEO of Zimbabwe Agricultural Society, a group responsible for promoting agricultural development in the country. He said the current wheat shortage the country is facing can also serve as an opportunity.
“This is an opportune time for our farmers to produce more, for the government and the private sector to work together, hand in hand, to support farmers who want to go into wheat production,” Matibiri said. “And thank God! We have been having some late rainfalls, which have been helping land preparations. So, all in all, the future of wheat production in this country is good.”
Matibiri said he has confidence in his country’s capacity to face the challenge. “We have shown that we can produce enough for our needs and to produce even more so that we can export to neighboring countries and others who are in need of wheat.”
For Kayumba, that would certainly be good news since she can’t afford to buy bread for her family as it is currently double the price it used to be.