THE year 2014 was full of major economic upheavals which saw the Kwacha depreciate against major foreign currencies, says Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) media and information officer, Mwiinga Shimilimo.
Ms Shimilimo said according to the survey carried by JCTR the Kwacha depreciated to as low as K7.200 against the US dollar in the first and second quarter of the year.
She said 2014 was also plagued by an increase in the price of mealie meal, the staple food.
Ms Shimilimo said the cost of living was aggravated by the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) which, after consultation with other stakeholders, in June 2014 approved ZESCO’s application to vary and adjust electricity tariffs by 24 per cent for domestic consumers and 15 percent for commercial users.
“The increase affected the cost of production by manufacturers who transferred the cost to consumers,” she said
According to a survey carried by the JCTR, the December 2014 Basic Needs Basket for Lusaka stood at K3, 905.22 and this shows a marginal increase of K210.78 from the month of November 2014 which stood at K3, 694.44.
This was attributed to increases in the cost of food items such as kapenta which increased by K67.65 from an average unit cost of K71.43 to K139.08 per kg, dry fish which increased by K34.10 from K90.71 to K124.81 per Kg and beans which increased by K16.03 from K16.86 to K32.89 per Kg,” she said.
She said in 2014 there was a negligible reduction in the cost of some essential commodities, adding that a number of factors accounted for the high cost of living such as uncertainties leading to the depreciation of the kwacha.
Ms Shimilimo said about 80 per cent of Zambia’s population was dependent on agriculture, most of whom were small-scale farmers and growing maize for their livelihood.
“However, small-scale farmers have continued to experience a lot of problems in the marketing and selling of the commodity. And those that sold their maize to the Food Reserve Agency have had to wait for long periods to receive their dues,” she said.
She said despite Government allocating millions of kwacha for the purchase of the maize, the funds were not enough to cater for all the farmers, forcing them to sell the surplus to the private sector and briefcase buyers at far below the national floor price.
Ms Shimilimo called for Government consistency and adherence to set socio-economic targets in the 2015 budget to prevent major disruptions in the economy.
She also urged Government to find lasting solutions to the many challenges facing small-scale farmers if household food security was to become a reality.