The Sunday Mail
The pact reached between Government and the private sector to reduce the price of bread from $2.20 to $1.80 is a laudable move that must form the basis of further cooperation in service provision particularly of basic foodstuffs.
While the New Dispensation is famed for its desire to create an environment for the thriving of a private sector driven economy, there still remains room for a “smart partnership” between Government and the private sector in regards to pricing of particular foodstuffs.
The increase in bread prices was a surprise to many who had hoped that the earlier intervention by Government to ensure that bakers enjoy duty-free importation of raw materials under a manufacturers rebated meant to reduce the cost of production was not only going to make bread available but also affordable.
However, bakers have insisted that while they welcome the move by the Government to waiver duty on the importation of raw materials, the biggest issue was not free duty but access to foreign currency.
Thus the decision by Government to allocate more foreign currency to bakers is informed by acknowledgment of the challenges being faced by backers and has in turn committed to increase the allocations to enable the purchase of raw ingredients much needed in the making the bread.
Not so long ago Vice President Kembo Mohadi announced that a consignment was on its way to Zimbabwe and effectively ruled out any possibility of shortage. He also hailed big outlets like Pick n Pay and OK for decent pricing of commodities.
It is thus encouraging to note that wheat stocks are said to have improved a situation that is likely to impact positively in ensuring that bread is readily available in shops. Given the fact that the country’s daily consumption of bread is more than 2 million, more efforts must be put in place to ensure that the baking industry continues to thrive profitably.
The value of bread in all households, particularly in urban areas, can never be underestimated. Bread is a staple food popular around the world and is one of the world’s oldest foods. Its unavailability or its pricing must surely be a cause for concern for all governments.
In almost all cultures bread plays a critical role particularly in modern times where it has become an indispensable part of every family’s morning meal. Its indispensability lies not in its affordability but also as a source of carbohydrates which are rich in energy and nourishment to sustain the day. It also contains proteins, salts and vitamins essential for proper functioning of the body.
Given bread’s indispensability as a basic food, it being an important fixture in some religious rituals as well as secular cultural life, it is hoped that the “smart-partnership” struck between government and the private sector must cascade to other sectors that have a bearing on the wellbeing of ordinary citizens.
This is in no way some form of price controls. Price controls are only effective when implemented on short-term basis. As attested by our history, price controls inevitably lead to problems such as shortages, rationing, deterioration of product quality and black markets that arise to supply the price-controlled goods through unofficial channels.
The Zimbabwean government has in the past emphasised the need for justifiable price adjustment. A free-for all situation particularly in an economy like ours still finding its feet will open floodgates for unscrupulous businesses to wantonly increase prices and create artificial shortages.