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Poor people pay double for food

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Why poor people pay double for their food-

In the early seventies we moved to my uncle’s farm in Mazabuka and I would often help my father handing out wages and rations at the end of the month. Each employee would receive a 90kg bag of maize meal with which to feed his or her family. Towards the end of that decade inflation set in and 50kg bags began to appear and soon became the standard pack for the average family. During the 80’s, as the economy suffered increasing stagnation, families had to learn to survive on 25kg of meal. When 10 kg packages began to appear in shops we wondered who would buy them as their contents worked out to nearly double the price of a 50kg bag.

Since food subsidies were removed in the early 90’s the majority of Zambia’s poor live on "pamela" small re-packs of 500g or 1 kg, only enough for one meagre meal for family. The cost of this maize meal now works out to double that bought in a 25kg pack which the minimum a family needs for a month. With 80% surviving on informal incomes and erratic incomes, over 50% of Zambians are stuck in the “Pamela” poverty trap .

If families could find a way to buy a full 25 kg bag of mealie- meal, a full 750ml bottle of cooking oil, a full 2kg bag of sugar, a 2kg bag of kapenta fish, etc instead of the pamela packs their cost of food would be cut in half and dramatically increase their disposable income. The interventions needed to solve this problem need not cost much because they only require better budgeting. Of course changing the situation is probably not so simple but certainly deserves some attention.

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