Zimbabwe's citizens struggled to pay sharply higher prices for basic foodstuffs on Monday after official data showed inflation hit a new record in August. Prices surged further over the weekend after news on Friday that Zimbabwe's annual inflation, the highest in the world, rose to 1,204.6 percent last month.
The southern African country is caught in a eight-year recession, blamed on mismanagement by President Robert Mugabe's government and marked by chronic shortages of foreign currency, fuel and food and unemployment of over 70 percent.
Producers say the price increases are a reflection of increased output costs, but disgruntled consumers see it as an unjustified knee-jerk reaction to inflation data.
As far as I'm concerned, it is inflation pushing prices up, not prices driving inflation, Harare shopper Tendai Makoni said as she rushed through her lunchtime shopping.
Most supermarkets were selling a standard loaf of bread at around Z$330 a loaf, up from Z$200 last week. The cost of a pint of milk was up around 70 percent. Items like cooking oil, meat and bath soaps were also sharply higher.
It seems like each time we are told of a rise in inflation, we have to double our grocery budget. You think you'll get used to it but you get shocked every time it happens, Makoni said.
An elderly man grumbled as he put aside nearly half of the items in his shopping basket at the check-out counter because he did not have enough money.
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says the cost of living for an average low-income urban family of six has risen to $385 in August from $300 the previous month.
State media reported that police had arrested three directors of a leading bakery, a packaging firm and the country's main milk producer for hiking prices without authorisation from the industry and trade ministry.
Mugabe's government has singled out inflation as the biggest drawback to efforts to haul Zimbabwe out of recession.
The veteran leader, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, blames the state of the economy on sabotage by opponents of a controversial drive to seize white-owned farms for blacks.