The price of the country’s staple food, maize went up by 19 percent in May, a development the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) has described as shocking for many families.
In their monthly cost of living survey released on Tuesday, CfSC said the cost of living sequence has revealed how an increasing number of people could be struggling to cope against a backdrop of growing unemployment and shrinking wages.
The organisation’s Social Conditions Research Programme Officer Alex Nkosi said Blantyre tops the list of cities with increasing maize prices.
“The food price rises come as a sharp shock to many families at this period of the year. One other shocking revelation is that the food price rises are not as universally distributed across the four cities. These have been unevenly distributed across different four cities, and a common concern is that even quite substantial rises in income might not be enough to keep up with the rising cost of living”.
“The ultimate measure of consumer products is generally staple food items, in our case maize. It is alarming that at this point in time, even the harvesting period, has not allowed for low prices on staple items such as maize, beans and vegetables,” said Nkosi.
He further said the worrisome aspect is that the steep maize price increases, coupled with limited income-generating opportunities, will likely lead to deteriorating purchasing power of poor households.
He also said if the problem is the poor’s inability to purchase sufficient calories, then economic and social policies targeting the poor are warranted.
“In other words, the visible hand of the government, civic organisations and market will have to coordinate the distribution of foodstuffs to families at and below the poverty line. The task is daunting, but one unacceptable response is doing nothing. That is, allow the forces of demand and supply to allocate food locally.
“While the country has not produced in great supply to allow for cheaper prices it, however, has some in stock; hence to decrease the rising cost of maize it would make sense that government releases some maize stock into the market.
“This would make the maize more accessible to people because the price would be lowered. It may also be necessary that there should be free food distribution.