Prices of Maize, Malawi’s staple crop, rose by 21.6 percent in July to K310 per kilogramme (kg) from K255 in the preceding month, figures from the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) show.
This is ironic as, traditionally, prices of the commodity are expected to ease at this time which is the peak of the harvesting season in Malawi.
But Ifpri says the situation is partly reflected in the increase in Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc’s) maize selling price from K220 per kg to K300 per kg.
“In terms of distribution, maize prices were highest in Bangula at K400/kg and lowest in Rumphi and Jenda, at K230/ kg each.
“All markets registered price increases ranging from one percent in Mzimba to as high as 45 percent in Rumphi. However, maize prices were unchanged in Chitipa and Mbayani,” reads the report.
Last month, the government ordered Admarc to start selling maize at K300 per kg, up from the earlier set farm gate price of K210, if the corporation was to make profit.
The order was also meant to ensure stability of the prices on the market which were seen skyrocketing.
Maize, as a food component, weighs heavily in the Consumer Price Index, a formula for computing inflation.
Headline inflation was seen at 24.6 percent in July.
Figures from the National Statistical Office show that food inflation, seen at 32.5 percent in July from 31.2 percent in the preceding month, has been pushing the headline inflation upwards in the past months.
In its recent Market Intelligence report the Reserve Bank of Malawi indicated that inflation pressures remain elevated in the country due to sustained elevated costs of energy and food items.
“Despite the decreases observed in a few countries recently, the current levels of inflation are significantly above the individual country inflation targets,” the report adds.
But in an interview, Ministry of Agriculture Public spokesperson Gracian Lungu said maize prices are still affordable at Admarc.
He said that the government also intends to increase the number of families eligible for social cash transfers to cushion more citizens.
“In Malawi there is no hunger because if you go anywhere in the country you will find the commodity but what remains now is the affordability and this is why we are increasing the number of families under the safety nets,” Lungu said.
The government said it expects the country to have produced 3.9 million metric tonnes of maize this season, which is a decrease from the 4.4 million metric tonnes produced last season.
Justin Mkweu is a fast growing reporter who currently works with Times Group on the business desk.
He is however flexible as he also writes about current affairs and national issues.