Bakeries suspend production in southern Zimbabwe

By Regerai Marwezu

MASVINGO - Bakeries in the southern town of Masvingo on Friday suspended indefinitely the production of bread and other confectionaries following a government order issued earlier this week to reduce prices by 50 percent.

The decision to suspend production followed a meeting of the Bakers Association of Zimbabwe held on Thursday that was called to discuss the implications of the government order on prices.

A spokesperson of the bakers' association, Osman Taurai, told ZimOnline yesterday that they had suspended production of bread with immediate effect because it was no longer viable to do so.

"We cannot continue to operate at a loss by selling bread at $22 000 a loaf. It is better to close down than to operate under such an environment," said Taurai.

President Robert Mugabe's government on Monday ordered businesses to revert to prices that were there on the market as at 18 June 2007.

"We have not been operating at full capacity for the past three years due to a number of challenges. We had hoped that the government would understand our position but it appears things are worsening every day," said Taurai.

The move to suspend production will see hundreds of workers laid off joining hundreds of thousands of other unemployed Zimbabweans who are roaming the streets.

Prices of basic commodities have been on an upward spiral for the past three weeks, rising by more than 500 percent during the period.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe economic crisis that has seen inflation shooting to over 4 500 percent, the highest in the world.

President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday accused businesses of hiking prices to sabotage the economy and bring down his government.