Mcaore and more Malawians are tipping into the poverty web as runaway inflation—a sustained increase in the general price level of goods and services—continues to condemn them into perpetual hardships.
Healthy Nangwale, a 38-year-old security guard in Blantyre who has to feed a family of five, is one of them.
With the prices of goods increasing at an increasing rate of 22.6 percent as of June 2016, according to the National Statistical Office (NSO), he is struggling to make ends meet.
His income, which months ago used to bring pride to his home, can no longer match with the continued rising prices of basic goods.
Nangwale says nowadays he rarely has enough money to support his household and his other dependants.
“Everything nowadays is expensive. Talk of food, house rent and even some other non-food basic necessities. For instance, a 50 kilogramme [kg] bag of maize is now selling at K14 000 and who knows what will happen come January?
“Traders have a right to price their goods at whatever level and this leaves us [consumers] in a desperate situation,” he says.
With the minimum wage currently at K21 297 (about $30) and the cost of feeding a family of six as of June 2016 at K165 660 ($227), according to the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC), many households, especially in semi-urban rural areas are becoming more desperate.
Spot checks by Business Review show that prices of basic necessities are going up north, with sugar, fetching as high as K800 in some rural areas from around K600 during the same period last year. In worst case scenario, some consumers have to pat with K1 000 to buy a one kg packet of sugar.
A one kg packet of salt was last year selling at K260, but is now at around K450, a pack of flour, referred to as ‘walkman’, whose quantity is less a kg—mostly used by low income earners— was selling at K400 last year and is now fetching K650 and a matchbox is now at K45 from between K25 and K30 during the same period last year.
These and many others are basic items are at the core of survival of most low-income earners and rural people.
A resident of Mayaka in Zomba, who is also a tobacco grower, Moses Chimenya, says life has become unbearable and money is not worth what it was last year or so.
This undescores the extent to which the monster called inflation is subjecting most Malawians to the life of misery.
“A few years ago, K5 000 could buy a number of basic things for a family, but this is no longer the case. The same amount of money cannot buy the things I used to buy such as sugar, salt milk and bread, among others, and this shows that it has lost value,” he says.
Chimenya is a tobacco grower, but with the prices not being favourable this year, this is double trouble for him.
The rising food prices, particularly maize, has also compounded the rising cost of living.
Figures from Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development show that maize output this year is estimated at 2.4 million metric tonnes, which is a defict of 12.4 percent relative to last year.
In its June 2016 Basic Needs Basket (BNB) report, CfSC said that despite registering a slight decline in the cost of living by 0.56 percent in June 2016 from a national average of K166 597 in May to K165 660 in June, low-income earners in the country’s main cities are still facing economic challenges because of the widening gap between the cost of living and what they get at the end of the month. n