Cost of living in Malawi’s four cities has dropped by 0.83 percent from K96 510.75 (about $241) in March to K95 707.50 (about $239) in April on account of food, indicates a report by the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC).
Specifically, the April CfSC Basic Needs Basket (BNB) report released this week indicates that the average in Lilongwe and Blantyre stands at K103 161 (about $257) and K102 562 (about $256) marginally declining by 2.83 percent and 2.05 percent respectively from the previous month.
The decline in the BNB in the two cities is on account of a fall in the food basket largely induced by the availability of food which offset a marginal increase in the non food basket.
However, the BNB for Zomba and Mzuzu marginally went up. In Zomba, it shot up by 2.07 percent to K88 016 (about $220) in April from K86 235 (about $215) in March. In Mzuzu it went up by 0.18 percent to K89 091 from K88 932.
Malawi is expected this year to realise a maize surplus of about 740 000 metric tons, which if achieved would represent a 50 percent rise from last year’s surplus.
However an expert, the Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) executive director Nelson Mkandawire, said the situation may not be sustained if Malawi does not manage the projected maize surplus.
“Malawi should make sure that the maize that we have this year does not leave our borders through illegal exports. I believe with well trained and vigilant personnel in the police, immigration, transporters, grain traders and others we should be able to manage to stop the illegal exports.
We should also look further into the production of maize next year by prioritising agriculture in the forthcoming budget,” said Mkandawire.
The CfSC BNB is broken into food and non food components. The food basket includes maize, milling, beans and usipa among others. And the non food basket includes charcoal, water, electricity and housing.
Notable in the CfSC food basket, in Lilongwe, a 50kg bag of maize dropped from K9 357 (about $23) to K5 286 (about $13), in Zomba from K6 700 (about $16) to K4 150 (about $10), Blantyre from K8 000 (about $21) to K4 500 (about $11), and in Mzuzu from K7 200 (about $18) to K5 200 (about $13).
Recently, there has been a turnaround in the cost of living and other indicators.
In March, after more than twelve months of incessant rising prices, Malawi’s year-on-year headline inflation rate registered a drop, marginally decelerating to 36.4 percent. The decline represents a 1.5 percentage points ease than the February headline inflation rate of 37.9 percent, as indicated by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
NSO attributed the March ease on mounting pressure on inflation rate due to the improved availability of food, especially cereals—specifically the availability of maize— as it dictates the movement in the CPI, the basket employed by the statistical body to compute inflation figures. The food basket accounts for 50.2 percent in the computation of the national CPI.
Between the lean period of November and March, Malawi experienced an acute shortage of maize thereby driving up inflation to 37.9 percent in March, the highest rate in years.