The Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) says rising food and non-food prices have pushed up the cost of living, throwing more people into the poverty trap.
In its Basic Needs Basket, CfSC figures show that the cost of living has jumped by 91 percent for a family of six from K164 316 in July 2020 to K314 914 in January 2021.
CfSC economic governance programme officer Bernard Mphepo said in a statement that the level of income for an average Malawian is below minimum requirements for the cost of food items and cost of living—the cost of maintaining a certain standard of living.
He said: “The increase in cost of living, which has been worsened by the Covid-19 situation, is impacting the living standard of Malawians yet most Malawians cannot afford basic necessities such as food, education and health.
“While the minimum wage was raised to the current K50 000, which is commendable, some workers have been pushed out of employment as some employers could not manage to pay their workers.”
In Malawi, maize, which is the country’s staple crop, traditionally impacts the country’s economy given its skewed influence in determining inflation rates.
The country’s headline inflation has been on the rise and is currently at 8.3 percent as of February 2021 on account of rising food and non–food prices.
In most markets in the country, a kilogramme (kg) of maize, which used to cost K185 in January this year, has shot up to K210 per kg.
Similarly, the cost of basic items and services used on daily basis such as soap, charcoal and transport fares, has also gone up since last July.
For an average income earner like Esmie Gombwa, who resides in Bangwe Township in Blantyre, it is tough to afford basic needs.
She said: “Things have not been any better for me as I have shifted from one business to another trying to make ends meet. I now sell dry fish which earns me about K4 000 a day.
“But with maize now selling at as high as K11 000 per 50 kg bag, taking out this much out of my income leaves me with little for our survival.”
In its recent update, Famine Early Warning Systems Network cautioned that minimal food insecurity outcomes are expected throughout February 2021 to September 2021, supported by above-average crop production.
The first crop production estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture show an above-average maize output in the 2020/21 season due to above average rainfall and increased access to inputs through the K140.2 billion Affordable Inputs Programme.