DAILY bread consumption has declined by 12 percent, the National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe (NBAZ) has said, as aggregate demand continues to decline.
Treasury statistics show an 11,8 percent drop in household spending in 2016 on the back of lower disposable incomes and sluggish economic growth. The economy grew by a marginal 0,7 percent last year, against a projected 2,7 percent, due to the effects of a bad 2015/16 agriculture season.
Government projects a 3,7 percent expansion in the economy this year, but a worsening foreign currency crisis has cast doubt on the official forecast.
NBAZ spokesperson, Ngoni Mazango, said business was at its lowest in the baking industry due to the poor performance of the economy.
“Economic challenges, coupled with low wages and restrictive production costs, have choked the baking sector’s viability. As a result, bread sales have gone down from the normal 1,25 million loaves per day to 1,1 million loaves per day,” Mazango said.
He said while some bakers were “doing exceptionally well, a sizeable number of the sector’s players are struggling”.
He pointed out that limited access of foreign currency from the central bank was affecting the sector since most bakers cannot refurbish or replace obsolete machinery.
“While we acknowledge the assistance rendered by government in supporting the sector, a lot more needs to be done. Bakers need to be supported in order for them to get machinery and foreign currency because we are importing a lot of commodities,” he said.
He said many Zimbabweans had lost jobs and could therefore no longer afford bread on a daily basis.
Industry and Commerce Minister, Mike Bimha, said government would work tirelessly to avert the collapse of bakeries.
“We are working hard to make sure that the baking industry does not collapse and it should be noted that most of the challenges being experienced cannot be individually addressed by my ministry because some of the issues are monetary and can only be addressed by the central bank. It should, however, be noted that the central bank is doing all it can to keep the country running,” he said.
Last year, the NBAZ said more than 20 small to medium-sized bakeries had closed due to the economic challenges, with the NBAZ president, Givemore Mesoemvura, indicating that big companies were swallowing the smaller ones and that the fight for shelve space had intensified.
The big players in the industry are Bakers Inn, Proton and Lobel’s Bread. All three invested in modern equipment when the country adopted a hard currency regime in 2009. –Fingaz