THE Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has projected an increased cost of living over the next survey period in view of the current COVID-19 global health crisis, which has seen increased prices of basic commodities and suspension of business in Zambia.
And the cost of living for a family of five in Lusaka dropped by a marginal K1.77 in March to K7,014.13 compared to K7, 015.90 in February, 2020.
In the latest Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket, JCTR Deputy Director Father Alex Muyebe stated that Zambia’s dependence on imported products would have an impact on supply of foodstuffs whose short supply would trigger prices increases.
“JCTR further projects that the cost of living may increase over the next survey period in view of the current COVID-19 global health crisis. Of interest is the 21-day economic lock-down that South African began on 27th March 2020. Particularly, we expect the price of fruits and potatoes to increase given our dependence on the South African market to supply them. Additionally, even for the locally produced food items, increased demand for goods may push prices upwards. Further, in the event of any restrictions on domestic travel, supply may be negatively affected and consequently prices,” Fr Muyebe stated.
And on the March BNNB, he stated that the marginal reduction in the cost of living was despite increases in the prices of essential food items and non-food items like charcoal.
“The March 2020 Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) by JCTR which measures the cost of living for a family of five (5) stood at K7, 014.13. This shows a K1.77 decline from K7, 015.90 in February 2020. In March 2019, the basket stood at K5, 543.16. The March 2020 basket recorded decreases in the price of items such as soya pieces which moved from K128.85 in February to K78.40 in March, vegetables which reduced from K391.00 in February to K340.73 for a monthly requirement of 40kg, Kapenta reduced from K202.73 per kg to K163.98, beans moved from K103.32 to 87.91 and banana moved from K171.66 to K156.31 for the recommended amounts of 16 kg,” Fr Muyebe stated.
“However, the basket recorded increases in the price of other items, mealie meal increased from K272.14 to K279.14 for 50kg, rice moved from K68.85 to K85.50 for 4 kg, potatoes moved from K39.35 to K49.39, milk increased by K20.9 moving from K139.97 to K160.83, tomatoes moved from K60.92 to K91.01 for 6 kg and cooking oil moved from K86.71 to K102.03 for 3.6 litres. For the essential non-food items, a noticeable increase was seen in the price of charcoal which moved from K300.00 in February to K344 in March 2020.”
He stated that the increase in prices of essential food items would further exacerbate the already existing malnutrition challenge in the country and rob individuals of their ability to live a dignified and healthy life.
“Evidently, the cost of living as measured by the BNNB still remains a challenge for the larger segment of the Zambian populace. While the BNNB has registered a marginal decrease of K1.77, the upward movement that has been seen in essential foods such as milk, rice, mealie meal, potatoes and cooking oil comes with implications especially with regards to nutrition. Households may either reduce the consumption amounts for these particular items or simply remove them from their shopping lists. This then leads to compromised diets and eventually reduces the amount of nutrients consumed. This further exacerbates the already existing malnutrition challenge in the country and robs individuals of their ability to live a dignified and healthy life,” Fr Muyebe stated.
He advised the government to increase its commitment towards diversification of the agriculture sector to help keep food prices low.
“The JCTR, therefore, continues to reiterate the need for Government to increase resource allocation and commitment to a more sustainable climate resilient and diversified agriculture sector. This will significantly contribute to more consistent supply of some foods and help keep prices low. Further, effective measures to cushion the poor in times of crisis are urgently needed going forward. Not only that, there is also need for policies that will help to control the exchange rate volatility, seeing how this has significant effects on businesses,” stated Fr Muyebe.