Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
GRAIN millers say they have a consignment of 30 000 tonnes of wheat meant for baking flour currently stuck at Beira, Mozambique, after they failed to access foreign currency amounting to $12,2 million from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe(RBZ) to pay for the grain.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) president Tafadzwa Musarara said they were waiting for central bank governor Dr John Mangudya to avail or release the foreign currency millers required to pay for the imported wheat.
Mr Musarara said this comes as stocks of wheat remaining in the country are made up largely of locally grown wheat, which needs to be blended with the imports to get high quality flour for baking.
Zimbabwe requires at least 400 000 tonnes of wheat per year to meet the national bread requirements of nearly a million loaves per day.
“We are just waiting on the Governor (of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe). The ship carrying the consignment has arrived at Beira, but the Governor is yet to release the required funds,” he said.
Mr Musarara said the industry requires $12,2 million every month for importation of adequate wheat supplies for production of baking flour.
“We are just waiting, there is nothing we can do, but we have transferred to the RTGS equivalent of the forex required,” he said.
“In terms of stocks, it is just local wheat, which cannot be used exclusively without imports for making bread. We use the wheat for blending; normally its 70 percent import and 30 percent local, but still the local wheat should be self-raising.”
However, efforts to get a comment from the central bank governor, Dr Mangudya, were not successful by the time of going to print last Friday.
The millers blend predominantly imported hard wheat varieties grown in cold climatic conditions with soft mostly locally grown wheat to achieve quality specifications for different baking needs.
According to Seed Co Group Head Wheat and Small Grains Programme Tegwe Soko, few farmers grow premium wheat because the variety has low yields while the local market does not pay good premiums for high quality varieties.
Mr Musarara said the challenge around flour wheat imports comes at a time consumption patterns are shifting in urban areas on account of changing diets and declining reliance on mealie meals.
The RBZ scarcely allocates foreign currency for different importation purposes to ensure equitable distribution among critical competing needs that include fuel, electricity, drugs and raw materials.
Zimbabwe is currently in the throes of a biting foreign currency crisis as demand for foreign currency far outweighs supply because the economy, particularly with regard to exports, is not performing optimally while other sources such as foreign investments and lines of credit are dry.