CHIMOIO – AS locals in Zimbabwe have shunned buying expensive bread in Zimbabwe, unemployed youths in the country have something to smile about as they have joined the great trek to Mozambique to become porters, lugging consignments of bread belonging to traders for a fee both through the Forbes Border Post and some porous undesignated entry points.
Notwithstanding the recent sharp increases of bread prices in the country, smuggling of Zimbabwean bread along the leaky border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique has escalated, as locals seek to eke out a living.
A visit by this publication over the Easter holidays, a variety of smuggled bread from Zimbabwe’s different bakers, are awash in Mozambican towns of Machipanda, Manica, Chimoio and as far as Beira but selling at a lower price on the Mozambican informal market.
Zimbabwe bakers a fortnight ago hiked the price of bread by 60% from RTGS$2,50 to RTGS$3.50 citing the constant rise in the cost of inputs charged on forex.
In Chimoio, bread varieties from Zimbabwe have literally flooded the Mozambican informal market where it is selling at a relatively lower cost compared to the Zimbabwean prices.
A loaf of Zimbabwean bread is costing 90 meticals, which is about US$1.90. The smugglers buy the bread in Zimbabwe at RTGS$3.50, which is about US$1, meaning that the smugglers are making almost 100 percent profit.
While some players in the informal sector hoard the bread through some connected syndicates, transport them to Mozambique through legal entry points, investigations revealed that most of the bread is smuggled into Mozambique by employees of producing companies working in cahoots with hired couriers using illegal entry points along the porous border.
Bread is currently awash in Zimbabwean supermarkets, retailers and bakers’ agents, as ordinary people have resorted to traditional means of breakfast that include yams, sweet potatoes and potatoes among other bread substitutes, as they could not afford the exorbitant prices of bread.
Interestingly, the bread has found a ready market on the neighbouring Mozambique. The informal trading of bread, as the trend, which is a result of the porous border, is a direct opposite of the biting bread price increases in Zimbabwe.
An unemployed graduate with a degree on Political Studies from a local Zimbabwean university, Hebert Mutasa, has taken this situation to become a Zimbabwean bread trader.
Mutasa now runs and survives on proceeds from a tuckshop he owns in Chimoio, said bread in Zimbabwe is selling fast at a very good price, hence, the relatively higher demand.
“Zimbabwean bread tastes well as compared to the local (Mozambican) bread and it is easily accessible. It is the reason why I am here because the Zimbabwean bread has got more profits,” he said.
“I get the bread from the shops in Zimbabwe. I the public transport to take it to the Mozambican side,” he said.
Naituve Chicolate a trader in Mozambique said: “The Zimbabwean bread sells very fast and you realise quick profit margins. It is another business opening that we are cherishing.”
Most traders, however, did not disclose how they hoard the bread from Zimbabwe saying it will jeopardise their business ‘deals.’
“We have people that cross the border to get the bread for us at a cost. However, they make it easy for us since the bread is actually delivered at our doorstep,” said another trader who declined to be named.
An unemployed youth said he was now earning a living, just as many others, by transporting the bread through undesignated entry points evading the security agents.
“My job is to carry the bread from Mutare to Machipanda (Which is about 10km from the Zimbabwean border) where I deliver it to the informal traders,” he said.
“I use a bicycle with a huge carrier. While others use man-made trailers. It has been a better income project for me as I am paid in foreign currency to carry the bread,” he said claiming that the amounts varied from the quantity of bread being carried.
He said they get an average of US$20 a day but the price might double during weekends where the demand is higher. However, Manicaland police spokesperson Taviringwa Kakohwa said the police is not aware of the smuggling.
“I am not aware of that (smuggling) and we have not received such reports. If that is happening it is a crime,” Kakohwa said.
Authoritative sources from Pick N Pay and OK Mutare supermarkets said they have been experiencing poor sales since the bread price increases.
“We have since scaled down the production of bread. We no longer having huge bread sales as the customers are now no longer affording to buy the bread usual,” said an employee at OK Supermarket.
But, on the few that they produce they have now limited to two loaves of bread per person.
“We do not sell bread to those who want hoard, unless some special cases like schools, hospitals and funerals. We are now allowing two loaves per person,” said a source from OK Supermarket Mutare.
“As you can see people are no longer queueing for bread. Bread here is now plenty. But we make it sure that do not sale our bread behind doors. We allow two loaves of breads person, unless we have a crisis like schools and hospitals and special cases,” said the source at Pick N Pay Mutare.
However, investigations have revealed that most of the bakers and agents have established syndicates where the bread is being smuggled to Mozambique and sold in foreign currency.