May 8, 2011

Subsidised foodstuffs based on income, not on wages, minister announces

The basic basket of subsidised foodstuffs which the Mozambican government plans to introduce for the urban poor will be attributed on the basis of income, not of wages. Ernesto Mafumo, of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, stressed that those eligible are from both the formal and the informal sectors of the economy (and thus not solely from the formal sector as some of the media have repeatedly claimed). Those eligible will be identified through a census, and the government's estimate is that 1.8 million people in the 11 provincial capitals have a monthly income below the threshold of 2,500 meticais (about 82 US dollars). They would thus be eligible to buy the basket of subsidised food at a monthly price of 840 meticais.

Shops supplying this food will be selected by public tender. The goods concerned include maize flour, rice, fish, beans, groundnuts, vegetable oil and bread. Exactly how much of each will be included in the monthly basket is not yet clear. Funds from the British government via Save the Children helped Isabel Joaquim Marquez and her partners to build this oven and learn how to bake bread. The owners of the shops that win the tender must present a balance sheet to the Ministry of Industry and Trade at the end of each month, on the basis of which the government will then pay them the subsidy - the difference between 840 meticais and the real cost of the food. "This is a short term measure that should last during the period when the prices of the goods continue to increase", said Mafumo. "As from the moment when the prices drop, the subsidy will end".

At the same meeting, Victorino Xavier, of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the government has drawn up a Strategic Plan for the Agricultural Sector (PEDSA), intended to overcome food shortages. Among the areas prioritized in the plan are agro-processing, marketing of farmers' surplus crops, the availability of agricultural inputs, and increased production. "We have to remove all the bottlenecks that exist before and after production", said Xavier, stressing that the challenge is to find ways of facilitating access by producers to resources, so that the targets established by the government can be made. Among these targets is a doubling of food production over the next ten years. Xavier added that the government is working to ensure the production of better quality foodstuffs. Research and rural extension were thus needed to guarantee that the necessary technologies reach the farmers. (AIM)

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