THE price of mealie-meal nearly doubled yesterday after government abruptly cut off subsidies over a month than earlier proposed, in the process piling pressure on the already hard-pressed Zimbabweans.

Grain subsidies had kept a cap on the prices of maize meal and bread for years, but Finance minister Mthuli Ncube indicated that he would cut off support in January to drive down government’s budget deficit, which he has targeted at 1,5% of gross domestic product next year.

In a notice from the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ), the price of mealie-meal jumped from $55 to $101,66 for a 10kg bag of roller meal at a time the lowest paid workers are taking home less than $500 per month.

“The government of Zimbabwe has, with immediate effect, removed subsidies on grain resulting to the price of GMB maize going up to $4 000 per metric tonne. In light of the price movement, the price of roller meal shall be $89,96 per 10 kg bag. The traditional margin for miller to retailers is 13%, thus giving the retail price circa $101,66 per 10kg bag,” the statement read.

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Prior to the price adjustment, the same bag was ranging between $55 and $60 in most retail shops, while it could be bought cheaper at the informal market, where it fetched between $40 to $50 cash.

The United Nations estimates that at least seven million Zimbabweans will need food aid this year, with the southern African country needing to import about 800 000 tonnes of maize this year after a drought that devastated the region.

Last week, Zimbabwe lifted import controls on grain in an attempt to soften the blow.

Zimbabweans are also grappling with weekly fuel price increases, while government increased electricity charges by 320% last month.

The latest increase was predictably not popular.

“You have people who can’t even afford mealie meal in Zimbabwe and this is shocking given that it’s a basic commodity which everyone should be able to buy. Even a doctor earning around $2 000 per month they have to think twice before buying maize meal,” Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa said.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority yesterday increased fuel prices to $17,90 for diesel from $17,74 last week and petrol to $17,44 from $17,07.