Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bread price increase reversed after deadly riots -- Mozambique

Mozambique's government will reverse a bread price increase after riots in which 13 people were killed last week, Planning Minister Aiuba Cuereneia said yesterday.

The 30% rise in the bread price as a result of soaring wheat prices sparked the worst riots since 2008 in the country.

"The government has agreed to keep the old price of bread and to meet the costs by way of subsidies," Cuereneia said.

President Armando Guebuza's government had said it had been forced to increase bread prices because of the spike in wheat prices, which was linked partly to drought and fires in Russia.

The United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, Oliver de Schutter, warned yesterday the riots should be a wake-up call for governments that ignored food security problems, which arose two years ago.

Police fired rubber bullets, live ammunition and tear gas during the three days of protests against higher bread prices and rises in water and electricity tariffs last week. Among the dead were two children.

The price hike took the price of a bread roll - the bread staple of Mozambicans - to R1.45 in a country where the average person is paid about R267 a month.

Cuereneia said old prices of food imports such as rice and some vegetables would be maintained by reducing customs duties and value-added taxes. Electricity prices would also be rolled back. New water connection fees would be halved.

The government would put in place austerity measures to help fund subsidies by freezing allowances and pay rises for senior state officials. Foreign travel by officials would be limited.

The government put riot damage at about R23.8-million in a country where 70% of the people live on less than R15 a day.

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