RBZ releases $2,5m for wheat imports

Government has moved in to secure 30 000 metric tonnes of wheat worth $12,2 million with a 20 percent down payment following threats by an international supplier to cut off the deal citing Harare’s delay in meeting its financial obligations.

The State media claimed it has gathered that a United Kingdom based wheat supplier — Holbud — had last week raised concern over Zimbabwe’s delay in paying for the cereal that docked in Beira nine days ago.

Full electronic payment of the bulk consignment was expected on arrival and the wheat has been attracting $17 000 storage charges daily.

However, treasury swiftly moved in last week with a $2,5 million payment after Holbud raised a red flag on the outstanding payment through the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, which is administering the deal.

Minister of Industry and Commerce Mangaliso Ndlovu yesterday confirmed the payment, but said Government was faced with a number of priorities in foreign currency allocation.

He said; “With the wheat stocks that we have at GMB, surely you can agree with me that this (new consignment) is not an immediate priority.

“But our wheat stocks do not last us the whole year. We will assist the importers when foreign currency is available, but it should be noted that we have other competing needs.”

Zimbabwe has been facing bread shortages over the past three months after demand rose from about 1,2 million loaves daily to 1,8 million.

Bakers require about 800 tonnes of flour daily and millers have been supplying an average 400 tonnes.

The situation has resulted in huge demand for bread which bakers argue should be sold for US$1 to cushion them from high input costs.

In a letter to GMAZ chairperson Mr Tafadzwa Musarara last Wednesday, Holbud confirmed receipt of the $2,5 million latest payment.

“The vessel arrived in Beira on 28 December (2018) and is waiting for payment to commence discharge. We have received a swift copy on 31 December for US$2,5 million against US$12,2,” reads the letter in part.

“…We brought the vessel basing on various promises given to us and also given the fact that we have always been supporting Zimbabwe during tight situations like now. Please let us know at the earliest time when the balance payment will be made to us,” said Holbud.

Responding to the letter which is in the possession of The Sunday Mail, GMAZ Media and Public relations manager Mr Garikai Chaunza said the local association was working on the issue together with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

“The Chairman (Mr Musarara) is currently in marathon discussions with the authorities in Zimbabwe and the supplier. He will be travelling to London next (this) Tuesday for an emergency meeting with Holbud senior executives.

“We should point out that the company is now the remaining international firm that is supplying us wheat. But we remain hopeful the RBZ will continue making the required payments.”