Bakers are diverting bread from the official market by creating cartels of their sales representatives and vendors who sell the basic commodity on the streets across Harare at exorbitant prices of between $5 and $6 a loaf.
Most supermarkets and registered tuckshops in the city centre, Chitungwiza, Mabvuku, Mbare, Budiriro, Kuwadzana and Warren Park are no longer selling bread because of the practice.
Investigations by The Herald have shown that salespersons who deliver bread early in the morning are offloading it on the black market, instead of shops, where they charge between $4 and $4,50 per loaf.
Most bakeries are now officially selling bread to retailers at the price of $3,65 a loaf, although the increase was not announced. But the salespersons are now snubbing conventional shops in favour of the illegal vendors who are made to obtain the bread at up to $4, 50 a loaf.
The sales representatives then pocket the difference. They demand payment in strictly cash. The burden will then be passed on to the consumers who are forced to buy a loaf of bread at $6 cash from the vendors.
Bakers Association of Zimbabwe chairperson Mr Dennis Wala said bread should be sold on the formal market and at the recommended price.
He said the recommended retail price of a loaf of price should not exceed $4 and whoever is caught selling it beyond $4 should be answerable for the illegal actions.
“As far as we are concerned, the retail price of a 700g loaf of bread should not exceed $4,” said Mr Wala. “Bread must be sold on the formal market. If one sells a loaf of bread over and above $4, they should be answerable for their actions.”
The Herald managed to track down a delivery van belonging to Proton Bakery in St Mary’s in Chitungwiza, and witnessed the shenanigans.
Selected vendors were enjoying the privilege of buying the bread, before immediately displaying it on their open markets outside convenient shops, whose bread shelves were empty.
A number of disgruntled vendors who failed to get the bread could not hide their disappointment.
“These guys are corrupt,” said one of the vendors.
“Only those who can pay more get the opportunity to buy bread here. That is very unfair, we all want to fend for our families. We should get an equal opportunity to buy bread at the official price.”
At a bus terminus popularly known as “pamaCall Box” in Kuwadzana Extension, illegal bread traders were enjoying brisk business as the majority of families were being forced to buy it from their tables.
At Chigovanyika shopping centre in Chitungwiza, a silver Nissan Caravan van was seen full of Bakers’ Inn bread loaves, with each loaf going for $6.
The vehicle owner said: “I wake up as early as 4am to buy bread from Bakers’ Inn guys and I make sure I sell it before I go to work. If you want to buy in bulk, I can sell you at $5 a loaf.”
Asked on how he manages to get the bread, the vendor said; “Kisses go by favour. You simply have to be streetwise and know who to talk to whenever you need favours of this nature.”