THE cost of living for a family of five has continued rising to K7,195.60 in May, 2020, a new all-time high, according to the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR).

And JCTR has echoed the need for government to cushion the poorest and marginalized in the country through enhanced social protection.

In a statement showing the latest Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB), JCTR stated that the cost of living for a family of five had spiked to K7,195.60 last month compared to K7,158.67 in April, 2020, triggered by nominal price increases in essential food items such as eggs and milk.

“The Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket for the month of May, 2020, stood at K7,195.60, an increase of K36.93 from the April, 2020, basket. Increases in the basket were noted in the prices of vegetables, which moved from K354.83 to K502.73; milk, which increased to K170.83 from K103.28 for 10 litres; bananas moved from K153.77 to K203.03; 1kg of pounded groundnuts increased from K43.95 to K79.23; 4Kg of rice moved from K77.54 to K82.76; 4Kg of potatoes increased to K37.99 from K30.36 for 4Kg; onion increased from K80.14 to K94.07 and 3 trays of eggs moved from K103.28 to K112.49. Reductions were, however, recorded in the prices of other fruits moving to K321.64 from K426.16; mealie meal from K250.50 to K200, and from the non-food essential items, charcoal, reduced from K358.40 to K332.00,” read the statement.

“Of interest is that items that contributed to the rise in the BNNB basket in May, 2020, are foods, such as eggs and milk that are nutritious sources of protein and already unaffordable to many Zambians. It is, however, worthwhile to note that mealie meal has recorded a price decrease for the second month following the increase in the supply of the commodity on the market.”

And JCTR observed that consumption of other food groups was already limited with many households.

“More so, consumption of other food groups is already limited with many households characterised by monotonous diets consisting of carbohydrates (mostly maize) and, thus, being nutritionally imbalanced. Thus, continuous decrease in the price of maize at the backdrop of increase in other essential food items will likely sustain the mono-diet culture. Evidently, alternative food items, such as potatoes while registering a price decrease in May, 2020, compared to April, 2020, is still more than double the price of mealie meal per kg,” it stated.

It also attributed the increase in the prices of certain commodities to reduction in supply given the rising input costs and loss of revenue that had characterised a number of economic activities as a result of COVID-19.

And JCTR, the renowned Catholic-run organization, echoed the need for government to cushion the poorest and marginalised in the country through enhanced social protection.

“With the continued increase in the cost of living, JCTR echoes the need to cushion the poorest and marginalised among us through social protection. The need for government intervention and commitment to the disbursement of allocated funds has become more pronounced. For one, as job and income losses continue in the COVID-19 context, particularly in urban areas, social safety nets provided to poor, rural-based Zambians by friends and family, may also drastically reduce,” stated JCTR.

“In the last few years, social protection disbursements have not tallied with budget allocations. We continue to call on government to also extend tax relief to households in order to safeguard both citizens’ economic livelihoods and nutrition status. A focus on keeping the inflation rate within set targets will also be key in protecting people’s purchasing power, especially given the current challenges.”

Data from the monthly survey usually takes into account the cost of living for a family of five across 15 major urban towns in the country with an emphasis on nutrition.