The cost of living comprising food and essential non-food items has stabilised in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba largely buoyed by increased supply of most food items, a social welfare monitoring body has said.
At the same time, Malawiâ€™s inflation continues to spiral upwards with the figure hitting 10.9 percent in February, according to the National Statistical Office (NSO).
Experts are forecasting a pick-up in the cost of goods and services in the short to medium term largely affected by non-food items that form the main component of core inflationâ€”a measure of inflation which excludes certain items that face volatile price movements, notably food and energy.
Contrary to the situation in the three cities, Mzuzuâ€™s cost of living has continued to rise registering an increase of five percent for food items while prices for essential non-food items remained stable, according to the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) in its March 2012 basic needs basket assessment.
Beans, usipa, sugar and utaka are the food items that pushed the prices up in Mzuzu registering a two, five, 17 and one percent increase respectively.
The rise in food items could also be because Mzuzu residents normally plant their farm produce later than the other cities due to the onset of the rains.
Beginning March through to April, most of the urban and rural households harvest their farm produce, a situation that beefs up their depleting food stocks.
For those that had a rundown of stock by March, this is the time they eat from their harvest.
“The average cost of living for low and middle income earners for the four cities is K71 690 ($430). This is still out of reach for many low and middle income earners in Malawi.
“In practical terms, this means that Malawians are struggling to access even the most basic of their needs,” said the assessment from the faith-based grouping.
For Lilongwe, Zomba and Blantyre, the prices have stabilised because of an increase in the supply of most food items.
“Considering that most food items are now in season, prices of commodities such as beans, maize and tomatoes have stabilised and in some places even decreased,” said the CfSC.
Sugar, nonetheless, is one item that recorded a sharp increase in March. In Blantyre, for instance, sugar went up by 40 percent, mostly in the informal market.
The commodity has been scarce for the past two months or so with Illovo Sugar (Malawi) Limited attributing this to illegal exports that have starved the domestic market of its sugar.