Wednesday, July 24, 2013

JCTR calls on govt to curb cost of basic commodities
By Masuzyo Chakwe
Sat 13 July 2013, 14:00 CAT

THE Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection has urged the government to tackle the rising cost of basic commodities.

Releasing the Basic Needs Basket for the month of June, JCTR stated this was so in view of the fact that so far no well-articulated framework had been put in place to ensure that the poor do not suffer adverse shocks of price changes.

It stated that it was imperative that clear measures, such as zero rating some food products be put in place to mitigate the increasing cost of food items.

In May, the government sequentially scrapped fuel and maize subsidies contending that the measure would free resources for infrastructure development and poverty reduction among others.

This change in subsidies has generated a debate with various actors voicing varying views.

JCTR stated that at household level, the effects of the subsidies removal on prices of basic commodities were still being felt two months afterwards. According to Daniel Mutale, the social conditions programme manager, the effects of removal of subsidies on basic food items was deepening.' Mutale said this calls for an urgent response to address the rising food costs.

JCTR stated that the cost of living for the month of June as measured by the JCTR's Basic Needs Basket for an average family of five living in Lusaka stood at K3,684.46.

"The Basic Needs Basket total has increased by K59.26 compared to May 2013 when the basket was K3,625.20. Evidently this increase is almost double the Basic Needs Basket total increase from April to May which was K31.60. From the time the subsidies were removed in May, a cumulative increase in the Basic Needs Basket total of K90.86 has been seen. The total cost of essential food items contributed most to this increase by K41.78 while that of essential non food items increased by K17.48. Increases in unit price of food commodities such as mealie-meal, beans, dry fish and beef by K3.18, K1.49, K24.62 and K1.13 respectively, explain the increase," it stated.

Mutale stated that, "The fact that it is the basic food items whose prices are affected is worrisome as these are integral to the diet of the majority poor." JCTR stated that not only was the cost of basic food items such as mealie-meal, which on average costs K59.28, unaffordable but the price was steadily rising as evidenced by an increase of approximately K3 in the month of June.

It stated that data from the Satellite Home Survey carried out by the JCTR in some high density areas within Lusaka shows that a great number of families rely heavily on mealie-meal for their basic meals.

"Thus the current and potential future increase in its cost and those of other basic food items will both constrain the already struggling families and pose a threat to household food security," stated JCTR.

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