THE Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection has urged the government to support farmers, especially small-scale farmers, to address both food security and nutrition issues in the country.
JCTR says it is evident that the poor with no income to keep themselves afloat will only be pushed further into a poverty trap.
Announcing the JCTR Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) for the month of June 2020 which stood at K7,060.80, acting Social and Economic Development (SED) manager Muchimba Siamachoka reiterated the need to implement effective shock absorbing policies that are directed to the poor and the marginalised.
Siamachoka said projections by both the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance suggests that the country’s economy is likely to go into a recession.
“So far measures that have been put in place are being directed to businesses with collateral and not the poorest people in society. JCTR appeals to government is to ensure that social protection programmes are scaled up and ring fenced throughout this COVID-19 period,” she said. “The JCTR BNNB has consistently recorded above K7,000 since January 2020, yet it remains a sad reality that very few individuals in Zambia earn incomes close to this amount. It is evident that the poor with no income to keep themselves afloat will only be pushed further into a poverty trap.”
She said midway through the year 2020, it was still impossible to put an end date to the coronavirus pandemic.
Siamachoka said realising so, several nations have begun to ease restrictions in a bid to keep their economies afloat and preserve livelihoods.
“Zambia is one such nation. While the country is slowly opening up the economy, the impact of the virus on the economy cannot be overlooked. In the latest COVID-19 address to the nation on 26th June 2020, the President of the Republic of Zambia rightly pointed out some of the devastating implications the country has experienced so far,” he said.
She said of great concern to the JCTR, was the already constrained fiscal position of the government that had been further affected by a decline in economic activities.
Siamachoka said it had been noted that 2020 revenue collection would be lowered by K20.8 billion from approximately K72 billion to K 51.2 billion.
She said debt obligations were expected to rise to K8.7 billion due to the devaluation of the kwacha against the US dollar.
Siamachoka said this would limit government’s ability to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in society, most of whom cannot afford basic necessities.
She said the BNNB for June 2020 stood at K7,060.80 with a total reduction of K134.8 from the May 2020 basket which stood at K7,195.60.
Siamachoka said reductions in the basket were noted in prices of the following items; vegetables moved from K502.73 to K 440.77 for 40kg, pounded groundnuts (4kgs) moved from K79.23 to K33.77, onion reduced from K94.07 to K61.80 for 4kg, kapenta that fell to K183.17 from K204.52 for 1kg and sweet potatoes moved from K37.99 to K18.43 for 4kgs.
She said further reductions on food items were noted in the price of other fruits that moved from K321.67 to K251.63, tomato reduced from K58.97 to K38.38, bananas moved from K203.03 to K189.78 and the price of cooking oil reduced from K109.45 to K99.12.
“From the non-food but essential items the price of charcoal reduced from K332.00 to K322.40 for two 90kg bags from the preceding month. On the other hand, increases in the basket have been recorded in the prices of cassava flour that rose sharply to K211.75 from K70.97 in May, a difference of K140.78 and soya pieces that moved from K69.95 to K90.55,” Siamachoka said.
She said the reduction in the prices of some items, especially agricultural produce, was attributed to the increased supply as a result of the harvest season.
Siamachoka said JCTR noted that the country had continued to pay more attention to the production of maize.
“Recently the Food Reserve Agency announced that funds amounting to K1 billion have been released for the purchase of maize grain. This gives an incentive to farmers to continue with the production of maize even when past experiences have emphasised the need for diversification in agriculture. The inability to promote crop diversification has the potential to threaten future food security,” she said. “JCTR continues to urge government to support farmers, especially small scale farmers, to embrace agricultural diversification to address both food security and nutrition issues in the country.”