HARARE Zimbabwe braced for at least a 500% increase in the price of maize meal as the government appears to have given up enforcing its price freeze on key foods .
Maize meal was set to rise from about Z100/kg the fixed government price to Z630/kg, milling company executives said at the weekend.
Increases in the past have led to food riots, which pushed the government to impose price controls buttressed by subsidies.
The state-run Grain Marketing Board, which has a monopoly on grain sales, announced earlier this month massive increases in the price of cereals. The price of maize rose from Z9600 /ton to Z211756 on July 3. Similar increases in wheat prices led to a fourfold increase in the price of bread last week.
The official currency exchange rate is Z824/1, but trading on the black market is as much as Z2700/1.
Zimbabwe is suffering its worst grain shortages since independence in 1980.
Official inflation has soared to more than 300% and a black market where inflation is as high as 600% is thriving.
The United Nations' World Food Programme estimates shortages will leave 5,5-million out of about 12-million Zimbabweans in need of food this year.
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