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Rising prices begin to bite

Small Scale Businesses

John Kapito

Consumers in the country have expressed worry over the rate at which prices of commodities have risen in recent weeks.

But the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) has warned that the prices will continue rising in the coming months as international oil prices continue to surge.

A snap survey by The Daily Times in Malawi’s administrative capital, Lilongwe, has revealed that prices of many basic needs such as cooking oil, soap, transport costs and even tomatoes have risen astronomically beyond the reach of many households.

This is despite many employers keeping the take-home packages of their employees constant.

Most vendors and shop owners attributed the upward price adjustments to the weakening of the local currency, the Kwacha, as well as the recent spike in fuel prices which has pushed up transport costs.

Centre for Social Concern Project Officer for Economic Governance Benard Mphepo said in an interview Monday that studies have revealed that this year has been unique in such a way that, unlike many years, where the cost of living falls between April and September, it has been the opposite this year.

Mphepo said consumer prices have been on the rise on a monthly basis from April and that an average family needs about K207,000 per month to live a decent life.

“But if you look at the minimum wage in Malawi, it stands at K50,000 per month. So, the question is: how are people surviving?” Mphepo said.

He said authorities needed come up with ways of cushioning vulnerable Malawians from the sharp rise in commodity prices.

Cama Executive Director John Kapito Monday admitted that commodity prices were tomenting Malawians.

He was, however, quick to warn consumers that the worst is yet to come considering that Malawi is a net importer and that prospects are that the Kwacha will continue depreciating in the short to medium term.

“If you look at the drivers of the rising prices, you will find that most of the things are rising because they are imported and the Kwacha has been losing value in recent months. If you ask me about what needs to be done, I think the authorities need to intervene in the market by ensuring that the fall in the Kwacha is checked,” Kapito said.

According to Kapito it is worrying to note that oil prices continue to surge on the international market, a thing that will likely impact local pump prices in the future.

He said come January, electricity prices are expected to go up by 10 percent, which would pile more pressure on prices.

Early this month, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) announced a 22 percent fuel price hike which saw the price of petrol jumping to K1,150 per litre from K899.20 per litre.

The price of a litre of petrol shot up to K1,120 from K899 while that of paraffin skipped to K833.20 per litre from K719.60.

Speaking during a recent State House Briefing, State House Director of Communications Sean Kampondeni said President Lazarus Chakwera shares the pain that Malawians are feeling in the aftermath of the fuel price hike.

Kampondeni, who is also Chakwera’s Special Assistant, said the President was aware of the consequences that could come as a result of the fuel price hike, including rising consumer prices.

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