Zambia’s inflation hits single digit but cost of staple food goes up – chief statistician

Zambia’s inflation rate for November 2016 has improved to a single digit of 8.8 percent from 12.5 percent. But that is hardly good news for consumers because the price of the nation’s staple food has taken an upward swing in the same period.

“A comparison of retail prices between October 2016 shows that the national average price of a 25 kilogramme bag of breakfast mealie meal increased to ZMW92.95 from ZMW89.18,” said Zambia’s Central Statistical Office (CSO) director John Kalumbi in an interview in Lusaka yesterday.

According to Kalumbi, the upward swing in the price of the staple food was triggered by increase in fuel and transport costs.

The development spells more misery for the consumers already contending with the increasing costs of other goods and services following the rise of fuel prices in October from about ZMW8 (USD0.8) to ZMW13 (USD1.3), in a move signalling the removal of government subsidies on fuel and electricity.

“The drop in annual inflation does not mean a fall in prices for goods and services,” he stressed.

A quick survey revealed that the prices of mealie meal were as much as ZMW100 (USD10) in most of the towns outside of the capital Lusaka.

The increase in the price of mealie meal is one of the paradoxes of more than 50 % of the annual agriculture budget being spent on maize inputs for many decades without a correlating drop in the price of mealie meal for consumers. Research findings of the Indaba Agriculture Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) confirmed that government spending on maize has not resulted in any significant value for consumers, who depend on it as staple food.

“Move away from maize-centric policies and diversify to allow growth of other food cash crops,” the institute has urged government in one of its latest recommendations to address the nation’s food security.”

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