Mozambique’s government will reverse a bread price increase after food riots in which 13 people were killed last week, the planning minister said on Tuesday.
The 30% rise in the price of bread due to soaring global wheat prices sparked the worst riots since 2008 in the southern African country, one of the world’s poorest.
“The government has agreed to keep the old price of bread and the costs would be met by subsidies,” Planning and Development minister Aiuba Cuereneia told reporters.
President Armando Guebuza’s government previously said it was helpless because of the spike in wheat prices linked partly to drought and fires in Russia.
The United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, Oliver De Schutter, warned yesterday that the Mozambique riots should be a wake-up call for governments who had ignored food security problems which arose two years ago.
Police fired rubber bullets, live ammunition and teargas during the three days of protests over the bread price hikes and increases in water and electricity tariffs in Mozambique last week. Among the dead were two children.
The government-imposed price rise took the cost of a bread roll — the bread staple of Mozambicans — to 20 US cents in a country where the average worker earns around $37 a month.
Cuereneia said old prices of imported food items like some vegetables and rice would be maintained through the reduction of customs duty and value added taxes.
Electricity prices would also be rolled back while new water connection fees would be reduced by 50%.
The government will put in place austerity measures to help fund the subsidies by freezing salary and allowance increases for senior government officials while foreign travel for government officials will be limited.
The government estimated that the riots caused damage of around 122 million meticais ($3.3 million) in the former Portuguese colony where 70% of people live on less than $2 a day.