Pressure on food prices to persist

Pressure on food prices to persist

Post was last updated: March 24, 2023

 The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) says prices of most food commodities, including maize, are expected to remain high through September, including during the harvest and post-harvest periods.

In its February to September 2023 Malawi Food Security Outlook Update, the United States-funded activity said this will be due to high agricultural input prices and soaring fuel and transportation costs.

Reads the Fewsnet outlook: “While the impact on household access to food will be relatively lower during the harvest period, high staple food prices will continue to suppress household purchasing power, particularly among poor households who are typically more market-dependent.

“In Fewsnet monitored markets, maize prices in February 2023 were 214 percent higher than the same time last year and 195 percent above the five-year average.”

For Bertha Kawomba, a 42-year widow and mother of four girls, the mounting pressure of food prices puts her in a hopeless spot.

Fewsnet says maize prices will remain elevated

Earning K60 000 from her shop assistant job in Blantyre, she said she has no idea how she will navigate the tough times.

Kawomba said: “Our maize field in Zomba was swept away by the floods and we will have to rely on maize purchases for consumption. The house, which my husband build for us, just collapsed following Tropical Cyclone Freddy and we have been forced to move to a nearby house which is still under construction for shelter.

Said Kawomba: “When we go to the nearby Mayera Primary School camp for relief assistance, we are told that it is only those who are staying at the camp that are getting the assistance. And my bid to get registered for the cash transfer programme also failed.

“Even my small business can’t sustain us.”

She, is among thousands of Malawians who are grappling with high cost of living and are yet to navigate the negative impacts of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which has damaged property, livestock and lives.

Business News snap survey show that the supply disruption caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy has pushed up demand for basic commodities including maize, which is now fetching an average of K40 000 per 50 kilogramme bag of maize, one medium-sized tomato is going as much as K500 while vegetable sellers are selling four leaves for K100.

Meanwhile, Malawi’s year-on-year headline inflation rate continues to rise, hitting 26.7 percent in February 2023, according to published figures from the National Statistical Office.

In Malawi, maize, as part of the food component, accounts for about 52 percent in the consumer price index, which is an aggregate basket of goods and services for computing inflation.

Already, before the Tropical Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi’s Southern Region from March 10 to 15 2023, resulting in severe floods and landslides, Ministry of Agriculture preliminary crop estimates showed a projected 360 000 metric tonnes (MT) maize surplus this season from a production of 3.56MT, which experts said would not be enough to have a positive impact on food prices.

In its Monetary Policy Committee report in Februarysigned by Reserve Bank of Malawi Governor Wilson Banda, the central bank said it projects headline inflation to slow down to 18.2 percent from 21 percent last year, on account of declining key imported commodities and also the heightening risk of a global recession amid tight financial and monetary conditions.

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