April 2, 2011

Food basket for the urban poor

The Mozambican authorities believe that by June 2011 all the conditions will be in place for providing a subsidised food basket to the urban poor. The food basket, replacing the current general subsidies on wheat flour and third grade rice, will benefit people living in Maputo and the other ten provincial capitals with a monthly income of 2.000 meticais (about 65 US dollars) or less. The government estimates that the food basket will cover 1.8 million people in the main urban centres. This figure is a projection from the recent Survey on Household Budgets, and covers those people suffering from what the government describes as "food poverty".

According to the National Director of Trade, Calado da Silva, preparations are under way for a census in the cities to ascertain exactly who is eligible for the food basket. The government is also preparing to launch a tender to select the shops where the beneficiaries will pick up the food basket. The food will not be given away. It will cost 824 meticais a month, and the government subsidy will cover the difference between this fixed price and the real price of the products. "Mechanisms are being designed to implement the initiative", said Silva. "The first of these is a survey of the population covered by the measure. It will cover people who have either a formal or an informal income, and it will be carried out in the residential areas and not at the workplaces to see who is really eligible". "We will do this registration in the residential areas so that the local and neighbourhood structures can confirm the data provided by the interviewees", he added.

Asked about the sums of money involved, Silva that all depended on the registration. "We know that this initiative will cover a universe of 1.8 million citizens, and the registration will tell us exactly how much needs to be invested", he said.
The food basket will consist of grain, sugar, vegetable oil, beans, and second grade fish, but Silva could not say how much of each product will be provided. Guidelines from the Ministry of Health would be followed, he said, to ensure that the food basket meets the minimum daily calorific needs.

The Mozambican trade union movement has a very different idea about what should be in a basic basket of goods. The main trade union federation, the OTM, says its studies indicate that a basket of basic goods and services to sustain a family of five for a month currently costs 7,200 meticais (232 dollars). (AIM)

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