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Mozambique food price hikes to stay put

Food and energy price hikes which triggered riots in Mozambique are "irreversible," its government has said.

The statement came after an emergency meeting called over the two days of protests in which seven people have died and at least 280 were hurt.

Schools have closed and many people stayed at home to stay safe as the army was sent out onto the streets of the capital, Maputo amid reports that rioters were exchanging text messages urging each other not to back down.
In the past year, the price of bread has risen by about 30 per cent in the south eastern African nation, one of the world's poorest countries. The food price rise accompanied by higher electricity and water tariffs has angered thousands of people.

The emergency cabinet meeting stressed "the importance of all citizens to abstain from participating in acts of upheaval, vandalism, looting and violence in general to enable the quick return to normality,” said Government spokesman Alberto Nkutumula.

He spoke out against the violence and urged people to stay calm, but said the government would not reconsider increasing the price of bread. "The price hikes are irreversible," he told reporters.

The higher cost of living is partly blamed on soaring wheat prices around the world, brought on by severe drought in Russia and eastern Europe.

The unrest has sparked worries that food protests could spread across other poor African countries that depend on imported food. Rising prices for basics have already angered people in countries from Egypt to South Africa.

Bread is the key item in the basket for ordinary people,” said political analyst Adriano Nuvunga, a in Maputo. “People are worried that the rising costs have reached the point of no return.

High food prices have been a driving factor behind South African public sector workers’ unions for a big pay rise, which led to a strike last month that paralysed schools and hospitals.

Look at Mozambique – we are sitting on a potential time-bomb,” said Sizwe Pamla from South Africa’s National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union. “Too many workers are living from hand to mouth; the costs for poor people are skyrocketing,” he told The Financial Times newspaper.

The violence in Mozambique has been the worst since 2008, when clashes between police and rioters over rising prices killed at least four people dead. President Armando Guebuza said he understood why people were angry and knew about the poverty many people live in. "Combating poverty is part of the government's five-year plan," he said.