The positive national economic performance in the first quarter of 2011 is expected to breathe life into mainly poor households that have been teetering on the brink of hunger and, as noted by the latest Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) report, the positive forecast for the rest of the year will likely see household incomes marginally improve in the current consumption year.
The general cost of living however remains higher than the average household income. The recent civil servant wage increases will see the lowest paid worker pocketing a basic salary of $159, up from $128 against the poverty datum line pegged at $502,04 in June.
This was a slight decline from the May figure of $504,03 according to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) monthly family basket.
The decreases, according to the consumer watchdog, are attributable to the reduction in food and detergent prices following a decline in fuel prices.
“In the areas of low agricultural potential with limited off-farm employment opportunities and which were affected by the February dry spell, the ability of poor households to purchase adequate food has been a great challenge to household food security compared to last year,” Fewsnet noted.
It added that while in these areas there was no evidence of improved incomes for poor households compared to last year, staple cereal prices are currently higher than the same time last year.
The affected areas include Mudzi, Mutare, Buhera, Chipinge, Chiredzi, Bikita, Chivi, Zaka, Rushinga, Mbire, Matobo, Umzingwane, Bulilima and Mangwe and these districts remain the areas of concern.
CCZ said the food basket decreased to $145,23 in June from $146,26 in May reflecting 0,01 decline while food and detergents basket decreased to $158,04 from $160,03 indicating a 0,01 decrease.
“Other products have decreased and these include meat, tea leaves, cooking oil, bath soap and washing powder,” CCZ said.
The price of margarine increased by $1,10, mealie-meal was up by 22 cents, flour 6 cents, tomatoes 38 cents, onions by 20 cents, cabbage by 5 cents in the month of June. In May price increases were noted in sugar, tea leaves, fresh milk, cabbage and tomatoes.
“National macroeconomic performance has been positive in the first quarter of 2011 and is expected to remain for the 2011/12 consumption year. The general cost of living is expected to be stable resulting in the marginal improvement of household incomes,” Fewsnet said.
The consumer basket for transport, rent, water and electricity, health, education, clothing and footwear has remained the same.
“Over the past few months the rand has stayed somewhat weaker to the US dollar. Fuel has slightly decreased in comparison to past months and is ranging between $1,30 and $1,43 which may have resulted in the reduction of food basket, besides the competition in the various supermarkets,” said CCZ .
For more than three months the consumer watchdog has been saying there have been challenges in the area of water supply where a number of households are still going dry.
“CCZ commends government for cutting water and rates charges to levels that are accessible to consumers but consumers are encouraged to conserve water and energy.”
The consumer body said locally manufactured products are still not being produced and supplied at adequate levels resulting in them being uncompetitive with goods from South Africa.
The consumer watchdog in April this year urged the country to invest in the manufacturing sector in order to reduce price increases in the second quarter of 2011.
Prices of essential basic products have been on an upward trend in the first quarter of 2011, resulting in consumers spending more for less.
According to Fewsnet, poor households in the districts of Mudzi, Mutare, Buhera, Chipinge, Chiredzi, Bikita, Chivi, Zaka, Rushinga, Mbire, Matobo, Umzingwane, Bulilima and Mangwe are however facing challenges in meeting their food requirements.
The national maize grain price has however started to decrease and this can be attributed to the current harvest.
According to the Agriculture and Food Security Monitoring System, the May average maize grain price for all monitored sites was $0,32/kg which is an 8% decrease from the April price.