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Oliver Meth

Zimbabwean millers have raised prices for staple maize meal and flour, as the Russia-Ukraine conflict pushed up global grain and fertiliser costs, inflating the risk of hunger in a nation already fragile from Covid-19 and economic mismanagement.

The association of private millers said Zimbabwe, which expects to import 155,000 tonnes of wheat this year through to October, traditionally sources most of its wheat imports from Russia, from where supplies have been disrupted by the war.

Russia is also a major supplier of fertiliser to Zimbabwe, raising the prospect of further hikes in prices driven by shortages and price hikes in inputs when the planting season starts later this year.

Maize meal will increase by 15% to 1,099 Zimbabwean dollars ($8.44) from 955 Zimbabwe dollars ($7.34), the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) said in a statement, adding that wheat flour would go up by about the same percentage, to 136,544 Zimbabwean dollars per metric tonne.

Zimbabwe inflation rate goes up by 66 percent, raising the risk of hunger of more than 5 million nationals /Courtesy/

It’s hardly surprising that the inflation rate is climbing given the constant price increases Africa and the rest of Zimbabwe has to endure on a daily basis. Even when prices of items such as oil fall steeply on the global market, Zimbabweans still have to pay.

The Southern African country’s economy was already battling high inflation before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the new round of food price increases will add to its woes.

The World Food Programme has said that more than 5 million Zimbabweans, a third of the population, faced hunger between January and March 2022, when the harvest season began.

The landing price of wheat had increased from $475 before the Ukraine conflict to $675 per tonne currently, GMAZ said.

Zimbabwe has also seen two fuel price increases inside a week, in line with surging international oil prices.

Petrol and diesel prices are up 18% and 22% since the beginning of the year, adding inflationary pressure to an economy battling a rapidly devaluing currency.

In February, month on month inflation rose by 7%, up from 5.3% in January, reflecting rising prices in the economy.

An economic rebound was expected when President Emmerson Mnangagwa replaced long-ruling Robert Mugabe after a November 2017 coup failed to materialise, feeding into rising political tensions ahead of general elections due in 2023.

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Oliver Meth