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Labour oversupply, desperation hurt piece-work wages—study

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The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) has said increased competition for agriculture labour piece works coupled with desperation have resulted into nose-diving labour costs, thereby hurting the most vulnerable Malawians who rely on ganyu for survival.

In its December 2019 to January 2020 Food Security Update, Fewsnet said with the start of the growing season demand for agriculture related labour which is the main source of income for poor households is increasing.

“However, increased competition for the same opportunities is limiting access to income, as the number of people seeking labor opportunities is above average and increasing as the lean season progresses. Furthermore, wages are now below average as a result of the increased competition.

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“This comes at a time when high maize prices are substantially reducing household purchasing power. As a result, income earned from agricultural labour is proving insufficient for most households to meet their food and basic non-food needs,” reads the update in part.

Malawi’s food prices have been on the upshot in recent months, jumping above K15,000 per 50kg bags in most districts across the country.

According to the update maize grain prices continue to increase rapidly as an increasing number of households become reliant on market purchases during the lean season.

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The update says according to Agricultural Market Information System (Amis) data collected by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development (MoAIWD), market prices of maize grain ranged between K213 and 300 per kg in November, representing 5-20 percent increases over October prices in most markets.

Government, through the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) is selling the grain at K150 per kg though in small portions.

However, a snap survey by Times in Lilongwe Wednesday revealed long queues in Admarc depot as Malawians struggled to buy the grain.

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