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Food prices remain low

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Tamani Nkhono Mvula

The proportion of households relying on food purchase dropped by 1.3 percentage points from 14.4 percent in the first half of May 2021 to 13.1 percent, figures from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao) indicate.

This represents a steep drop from April as the food purchasing rate was seen at 24.3 percent.

The country is at the peak of the recent harvesting season and output for maize, Malawi’s staple crop, is estimated to increase by 17.5 percent to 4,447,494 metric tonnes from last season’s produce of 3,785,712 metric tonnes.

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The Fao report shows that the proportion of households relying on own food production as a main source of food increased by 1.4 percentage points from 84.3 percent to 85.7 percent in the second half of May 2021, showing an increase from April which had its food production at 75.3 percent.

This is owing to a rise in the food output.

In an earlier interview, Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu said local farmers were expected to reap from the situation.

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“This will reduce pressure on farmers to accumulate maize stocks in readiness for the lean season. Farmers will have some income to improve other socio-economic aspects of their livelihoods,” Lungu said.

He added that the bumper harvest gives room to significant sales revenue that would not have been possible under their regular harvest quantities.

Agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said the trend would remain in the next few months.

“As we go towards the end of the year, much of the food that was produced will also continue being sold. There will then be an increasing presence on the market of maize traders; the prices of maize will be affected because of the high supply of maize and low demand,” Mvula said.

In a separate interview, Economic commentator Cosmas Chigwe said low food purchases were hurting commercial farmers.

“There are reports that, in remote areas with poor access to urban markets, a 50- kg bag is being sold at less than K5, 000, thus putting a dent on the farmer’s disposable incomes, which is worse especially with the prices of basic goods rising,” Chigwe said

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