As the country clocks one year under Covid-19, a second round survey conducted in eight districts has exposed the suffering that many rural communities face, ranging from rising food prices to limiting or reducing the number of meals.
The survey titled Covid-19 in Rural Malawi: Perceived Risks and Economic Impacts was conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri).
It found that economic activities in rural areas are heavily affected, largely due to government restrictions or peoples’ behaviors, which limited the amount of work some people do to earn a living.
It reads: “In the first round of the study, 56 percent of respondents said that food products they usually buy were not available to them in nearby markets, and this number grew to 69 percent in Round 2.
“Forty eight percent of respondents in Round 1 had reported that food prices for some of their regular purchases had increased recently, with this number increasing substantially to 82 percent in Round 2.
The percentage of respondents who reported limiting the size of their meals or reducing the number of meals also increased from 50 percent and 45 percent, respectively in Round 1 to 60 per-cent and 64 percent respectively in Round 2.
Some respondents also attributed their lack of work to illness exposure, work and travel prohibitions, and Covid-19.
It adds: “Among households engaged in farming or who had a household business activity (67 percent of households in our sample), we note that lower than normal prices for outputs, difficulty accessing credit, and difficulty accessing inputs are all common issues in both rounds.
“Other significant reported challenges include lower than normal demand for outputs, and higher than normal prices for inputs. While this is useful information and could reflect constraints on regular business operation or willingness of people to move and congregate, the Covid-19 pandemic is only one possible reason for these challenges.
Earlier, food price bulletins from the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) show an increase in prices of food stuffs that include legumes, tubers, livestock and livestock products but also fish across the country.
For the month of January, average retail prices of legumes (common bean, soybean, groundnut, and pigeon pea) increased by 2 to 16 percent. Prices were much higher in Balaka, where common beans averaged K1367 in January from K1100 in December 2020.