Households in urban areas are spending an average of 56 percent of their expenditure on food, a development that shows that food prices are on the rise, published figures from the World Food Programme (WFP) show.
The WFP Malawi Minimum Expenditure Basket analysis indicates that since April 2020, the percentage share of food for urban dwellers has remained within the range of 55 and 57 percent with the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (Smeb) increasing by 0.6 percent to K62 405 in December.
However, Smeb in the rural areas has remained low at K37 632 (North), K39 355 (Centre) and K43 417 (South).
Reads the analysis in part: “The overall Smeb remains higher in the South due to high maize prices and high prices of a few non-food components, notably fuel wood and milling which are usually higher inthe Southern Region compared to prices for the same commodities in the Central and Northern regions.
“The overall survival minimum expenditure basket for the North remains the lowest of the three rural regions due to low prices for cereal and pulses, which form a major component of the basket.”
During the review period, charcoal prices increased by 6.8 percent while laundry and bath soap increased by five percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, according to the report.
Economic statistician Alick Nyasulu said in an interview that since Malawi’s inflation is mainly food-based, the rise points to emerging food shortages in rural areas and for this period, which is often seasonal.
“For sure, most households are running out of food and will continue to struggle to have proper meals. Most households often sell their produce soon after harvest at very low prices,” he said.
On his part, Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito said the figures raise serious concerns on how, as a country, Malawi has failed to combat poverty over the years.
“This is a reflection of total mismanagement of various policies and programmes to address matters of abject poverty in peri-urban and rural areas,” he said.
In Malawi, poverty levels were projected to worsen in the just-ended year to 56.3 percent from 50.5 percent as the measures which were effected to reduce the Covid-19 spread had reduced household incomes by an average of 11.4 percent, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.
National Statistical Office figures show that year-on-year urban inflation rate for December 2020 stood at 4.3 percent with urban food and non-food year-on-year inflation rates at 5.6 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.
On the other hand, the rural year-on-year inflation rate stood at 10.2 percent, with the rural food and non-food year-on-year inflation rates at 12.9 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively.