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Top Zimbabwean miller threatens shutdown over currency shortage

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One of Zimbabwe’s biggest grain millers threatened to close its wheat-processing plants unless the central bank provides foreign-exchange the company needs to pay suppliers.

Wednesday 05, December 2018

(Bloomberg)--A shutdown would exacerbate shortages of basic goods like food and fuel that have triggered the steepest increase in consumer prices since a hyperinflationary spiral a decade ago. Zimbabwe’s monetary authorities have been grappling with shortages of foreign-exchange for the past two years, restricting output by manufacturers and mining companies.

National Foods Holdings Ltd. plans to close its wheat-milling operations on Wednesday, Chief Executive Officer Michael Lashbrook said by phone Tuesday from the capital, Harare.

“Our foreign wheat suppliers haven’t been paid,” he said. The company is in talks with the central bank “to try and unlock payments so that production can continue.”

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya wasn’t available when Bloomberg called him seeking comment.

Zimbabwe spends about $45 million a quarter on wheat imports, according to central bank data. The commodity is the country’s biggest single import by value after fuel products. National Foods processed 277,186 metric tonnes of wheat in the 12 months through June, up 23 per cent from a year earlier, according to its annual report.

In October, the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe suspended the supply of bread- and self-raising flour to biscuit- and confectionery-makers to ensure there’s enough flour to make bread.

Shares in National Foods, which vies with Blue Ribbon Foods to be Zimbabwe’s biggest miller, rose 3.6 per cent to $7.01 by 1:19 p.m. in Harare.

TAGS : National Foods Holdings Ltd. , Michael Lashbrook, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, John Mangudya

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