Search

 

Cablegate: Misguided Policies Spawn Acute Bread Shortage

VZCZCXRO1287
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0531/01 1751556
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231556Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3063
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1994
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2078
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2198
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0740
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1475
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1833
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2254
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4685
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUZEHAA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1344

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000531

AF/S FOR S.HILL
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN
TREASURY FOR D. PETERS AND T.RAND

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAGR PGOV ZI
SUBJECT: MISGUIDED POLICIES SPAWN ACUTE BREAD SHORTAGE

REF: 07 HARARE 994

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) Bread shortages have reappeared as Zimbabwe's wheat and flour
stocks collapse. Wheat production has been declining since the
commercial farm invasions of 2000. While farm takeovers and low
prices explained much of the poor wheat output in the early 2000s,
in more recent years, shortages of fuel, electricity, foreign
exchange and fertilizer have predominated. Zimbabwe has relied on
imports to fill the gap, but due to foreign exchange shortages, they
have not met the growing demand for bread. Nevertheless, affordable
substitutes are still available along with the staple maize meal. We
don't foresee the bread shortage sparking bread riots. END
SUMMARY.

----------------------------------
Price Distortions Worsen Shortages
----------------------------------

2. (U) Bread is disappearing off Zimbabwe's supermarket shelves and,
for the most part, is only available at exorbitant prices either on
the black market or as rolls, which are not under price controls.
Although the government blames producers for creating "artificial"
shortages, bakers counter that the highly distorted controlled price
of a standard loaf of bread is strangling production. The industry
is calling for a price increase to Z$1.7 billion/loaf to regain
viability, while the GOZ has pegged the price at Z$400 million.
David Govere, CEO of Harambe Holdings which owns Super Bake,
Zimbabwe's largest bread producer, told us that the government
initially had agreed to subsidize the Z$1.3 billion/loaf price
difference to bakers, but, upon doing the math, had found the
financing unsustainable: Assuming that, for lack of flour, the
industry met only half the normal demand, i.e. one million instead
of two million loaves per day, the subsidy would have cost the
government Z$1.30 quadrillion a day.

----------M[QQQQh?r
commercial-farm disruptions began. Ninety-five percent of the crop
used to be grown on large-scale commercial farms. Cereals expert
George Hutchison of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) told us that
Zimbabwe put 65,000 hectares under wheat production with an annual
yield of close to 350,000 tons before 2000. Production plummeted to
187,000 MT in 2002, and below 150,000 MT in the following years.
This year, the GOZ claims that 25,000 hectares have been planted and
will produce 75,000 MT of wheat. Hutchison, on the other hand,
believed only 20,000 hectares had been planted, with a maximum yield
of 60,000 MT against national demand of over 400,000 Mt. He blamed
the collapse on lack of fuel, fertilizer, and electric power for
irrigation, plus constant irrigation equipment breakdowns, in
addition to the obvious loss of large, productive farms.

4. (SBU) The CFU regards pricing as the lesser issue in the
production shortfall, on paper at least, as the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe agreed to pay farmers the import parity price, currently
pegged at around US$630/MT, for the crop. However, farmers are
still waiting for the promised foreign exchange component of their

HARARE 00000531 002 OF 002


2007 crop. Under these circumstances, the remaining embattled
commercial farmers who formerly grew wheat had little incentive to
plant this season. Former CFU President Doug Taylor-Freeme, for
example, told us he had planted 500 hectares to wheat in 2001, 200
hectares in 2007 (of which he had abandoned 60 hectares for lack of
electric power to irrigate), but only 50 hectares this year,
primarily due to uncertain electric power supply and payment arrears
for last year's crop. He has the capacity to plant 800 hectares of
irrigated winter crops if inputs and payment were assured.

-----------------------------------
Imports to Sustain Bread Production
-----------------------------------

5. (SBU) To meet demand, Zimbabwe is importing wheat. Govere said
Zimbabwe had ordered some 50,000 MT of wheat from a South African
company called ASP, which is under the same management as Intshona
(reftel). As with Intshona, RBZ Governor Gono is said to have an
interest in ASP, which would explain why it is consistently the
GOZ's preferred commodity supplier. However, because of foreign
exchange shortages, Zimbabwe has managed to pay for only 12,500 MT
of wheat, of which 6,000 MT have been delivered.

6. (SBU) Govere explained that Zimbabwe also buys wheat from Hobuld
in Beira, Mozambique, and at more favorable prices than from ASP.
Zimbabwe bought 10,000 MT of wheat from Hobuld in March 2008, which
sustained bread production until the end of May. Although Hobuld is
said to have 11,000 tons of wheat in stock to sell to Zimbabwe, lack
of foreign exchange has held up a further deal. Under the
circumstances, Govere expects the bread shortage to intensify in
lockstep with the collapse of the local currency.

-------
COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Promising people cheap bread may be politically expedient
in the short term but without wheat, or the foreign exchange to
import it, its supply is unsustainable. Until productive farmers
can access the range of required inputs in a timely and reliable
manner to grow wheat, and get fair payment for their crop, bread is
likely to fade out of the Zimbabwean diet. Will its disappearance
cause bread riots? We think not, as maize meal still reigns as
Zimbabwe's staple food and there are some reasonably affordable
substitutes for bread, like sweet potatoes. Bread became the starch
of choice for the emerging urban middle class; having to forego it
is just one more belt tightening measure in the descent into
poverty. Until these substitutes and the staple maize meal
disappear, we don't see Zimbabweans taking to the streets over food.
END COMMENT.

MCGEE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: