Mealie meal prices will increase in the short-term given Zambia’s 3-year record low maize harvest, says the Jesuit Centre of Theological Reflection.

In a statement, the JCTR have predicted a rise in mealie meal prices due to limited supply of the staple commodity on the market in the wake of a low maize harvest.

Zambia’s maize output has drastically dropped to below 2.4 million metric tonnes of maize for the 2017-2018 agricultural season, down from a bumper harvest of over 3.6 million tonnes produced last year.

This means that Zambia has failed to produce over three million metric tonnes of maize for the first time in three years, making this year’s harvest the lowest since the 2014-2015 season where the country produced 2,618,221 tonnes of maize.

On the other hand, retail prices of mealie meal in Lusaka have jumped by an average K10.00 in some outlets, registering an eight-month record high of K80 per 25Kg breakfast bag.

The national average prices of the staple commodity has also continued rising to a nine-month high, with a 25Kg breakfast bag now costing an average K79.56, according to Central Statistical Office (CSO) data.

“In the light of the latest crop forecast survey projecting the reduction of maize production in the 2017-2018 agricultural season, we forecast a rise in the cost of mealie meal, which will inevitably affect the cost of other essential commodities and services,” JCTR stated in a press release issued via its social & economic development programme officer, Chanda Paul Chileshe, Thursday.

“The JCTR urges government to begin to prepare now on how it is going to address this rise in the cost of mealie meal. As the adage says, ‘to be forewarned is to be forearmed’. The crop forecast survey by the Ministry of Agriculture should serve its purpose of helping the nation manage the maize output reduction.”

The JCTR further appealed to government and its agencies to demonstrate leadership in this preparedness to avert “unnecessary suffering” during the lean months ahead.

And data from the JCTR’s latest Basic Needs Basket (BNB) shows that the cost of living for a family of five in Lusaka only marginally reduced to K5,369 last month from K5,433 in April.

“The May 2018 JCTR BNB for a family of five living in Lusaka stood at K5,369, which was K64 less than the April BNB which stood at K5,433. The most significant reduction was noted in kapenta, which decreased by K13 from K182 in April to K169 in May per Kg. Vegetables reduced by K8 from K16 in April to K8 in May per kg. Tomatoes decreased by K7 from K17 in April to K10 in May per Kg. The reduction in the prices of the commodities was influenced by increased supply on the market,” stated JCTR.

The BNB normally takes into account the cost of living for a family of five across 15 major urban towns in the country.