Rising food prices have pushed up the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (Smeb), with the largest change in households expenditure observed in urban areas, a new World Food Programme (WFP) report shows.
Smeb is the minimum amount a household needs to maintain existence and cover life-saving needs.
In its recent report titled Minimum Expenditure Basket in Malawi: A Look at Food Prices and Availability in Times of Covid-19, the WFP says while food expenditure rose by 1.4 percent in urban areas, rural areas experienced a four percent increase.
Reads the report in part: “This overall rise in food expenditure is a proxy indication of the general uptick in food prices as the 2021/22 lean season approaches.
“On the contrary, however, expenditure on non-food items significantly fell in rural areas and increased in urban areas.”
The WFP figures show that Smeb increased by 3.2 percent in urban areas, 2.9 percent in the rural Northern Region, 2.9 percent in the rural Central Region and 2.8 percent in the rural Southern Region.
In monetary terms, total expenditure in the urban areas rose from K62 448 to K64 442, meaning that an additional income of K1 994 was needed for a household to meet its survival requirements.
The figures further show that households in the rural areas of Northern and rural Central regions also saw their levels of expenditures rising by 2.9 percent or K961 from K34 373 to K35 334 and 2.8 percent or by K1 068 from K36 396 to K37 464, respectively.
In the rural Southern Region, a household had to spend 1.5 percent or K644 more compared to two weeks prior to meet its minimum monthly survival needs.
This translates into increased expenditure from K42 490 in the last round to K43 134 in the current round.
On the contrary, non-food expenditure dwindled by 15.5 percent (Northern Region), 8.8 percent (Central Region) and 11.5 percent (Southern Region) in rural areas.
In urban areas, non-food expenditure rose by 5.3 percent.
During the review period, the national average price of maize increased by 7.7 percent from a monthly average of K130 per kg in July 2021 to K140 per kg in August 2021.
In an interview yesterday, Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito said that the current situation is hard for consumers whose incomes have also dwindled due to the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “Economically and socially, we don’t know where this leads to but one can predict that the current economic situation has negatively impacted all sectors of life.
“It is going to be much harder than this as we approach the lean months.” While the minimum expenditure basket is defined as what a household requires to meet essential needs on a regular or seasonal basis and its average cost, the Smeb is the absolute minimum amount required to maintain existence and cover lifesaving needs, which involve the deprivation of certain human rights.