The Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (Smeb), the bare minimum a household requires to cover life saving needs, has declined by 0.8 percent to K64 204 on account of reduced maize prices.
A World Food Programme (WFP) Minimum Expenditure Basket in Malawi (MEB) Round 21 published on Tuesday shows that unlike in the rural areas, where Smeb averaged K42 146, with 85 percent spent on food, in the urban areas, only 58 percent is spent on food.
Reads the MEB brief in part: “During the last week of January 2021, maize prices subdued and the national maize grain average price was at K188 per kilogramme [kg], which is one percent lower compared to this same time last year.
“The current national average prices are much lower than their respective 2020 levels by 40 percent and also remain eight percent lower compared to the five-year average.”
Despite the decline in prices of maize, average price per kg for pulses including beans, cowpeas, and pigeon peas at K1 155, K638 and K613 per kg in that order, are an increase of 13 percent, one percent, and four percent compared to the same time during the last week of December 2020.
Compared to the past three months, the current price increases for all three types of pulses is significant, representing 32 percent for beans, 22 percent for cowpeas, and 36 percent for pigeon peas compared to those of three months ago.
“This is likely due to the depletion of the stocks from the last harvest,” reads the brief.
During the period under review, food inflation declined by 0.8 percentage points to 9.7 percent in January while non-food inflation rose by 0.7 percentage points to 5.6 percent, with year-on-year headline inflation rate increasing by 0.1 percentage points to 7.7 percent.
Maize as part of food is the driver of the country’s inflation as it constitutes 45.2 percent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is an aggregate basket of goods and services for computing inflation.
In an interview on Saturday, Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito observed that consumers are being hurt by the rising prices as most of them have no disposable incomes as they lost jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is also happening at a time when the cost of living has become unbearable with no financial cushioning measures in place,” he said.
Centre for Social Concern economic governance programmes officer Bernard Mphepo said the amount required to buy food is at K100 000, an indication that majority of low-income earners are unable to buy food that provides adequate nutrition.