Malawians continue feeling the pinch of rising cost of living caused by disrupted global supply chain due to the Russo-Ukrainian War, coupled with structural domestic economic challenges.
Prices of basic commodities continue rising, pushing year-on-year headline inflation to 23.5 percent in June from 19.1 percent in May.
Consequentially, figures from the Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) show that the cost of household needs for a family of six continues to rise, recorded at K391,835 in June 2022.
This represents a 12 percent rise in the cost of living when compared to the K349,865 recorded in the preceding month.
However, the cost of living has risen by 28.3 percent year-on-year when compared to the K305,290 recorded in June 2021.
A cost of living analysis report for June published by Ecam indicates that prices of food items such as maize and rice rose significantly by 42.9 percent and 31.9 percent respectively.
“Food items such as cassava, beans, rice, eggs, onion, sugar, cooking oil, vegetables, usipa, beef ration and salt among others are rising at an alarming rate.
“The rise in the prices has not spared non-food items, as it can be seen that charcoal, bath soap, wash soap, matches, body lotion, glycerine, toothpaste, and vaseline have been affected,” reads the report.
The development was also reflected in the headline inflation which increased by 4.4 percentage points to 23.5 percent in the month under review from 19.1 percent in May 2022.
In May 2022, the local currency depreciated to K1031.25 from K824.80 against the United States Dollar.
In an interview, Ecam Executive Director George Khaki said the economic environment continued to experience inflationary pressure in June 2022 with food inflation rising significantly, especially prices of maize and rice.
“These are effects of the devaluation of the Kwacha, price increases in fuel, and geopolitics in Europe. We issued an advisory note to our members to ensure that organisations have in place social dialogue mechanisms in place that will help in having genuine discussions on issues that affect both employers and employees.
“We also foresee increased demand in wage increases hence the need to proactively engage workers and to seek win-win solutions,” Khaki said.
Consumers Association of Malawi Executive Director John Kapito said in a country where the majority are unemployed and lack access to basic goods and services there is a need for the government to introduce some support interventions to the poor.
“There is an urgent need for salary increases such increases must not in any spiral inflation further unemployment’s and create retrenchments but overall there is need for salary adjustments while the state should consider providing cushioning support to the elderly poor, single-headed households and children,” Kapito said.
Local economist Millward Tobias said the rise in the cost of living was expected following the currency devaluation.
“The average cost of living is beyond the average incomes of majority households, especially where only one person works. This means Malawians are getting poorer because they cannot afford some basic needs in life. There should be long-term solutions to contain prices of house rental fees, public transport, and food,” Tobias said.
Minister of Information Gospel Kazako said these are the effects of global economic trends and are happening everywhere including in those affluent first-world economies.
“On our part, we have introduced austerity measures to ensure every public penny is utilised rightfully to avoid wastage. We also have the economic recovery plan,” Kazako said.
The cost of living in Malawi has been fluctuating as it usually rises in the lean months of September through January and decreases between February and August.
However, this year the cost of living has been rising each month but moderated in May when crop harvests were at their peak.
In the five years since June 2017, the cost of living has risen by 138.4 percent from K164,305.