Minister of Trade warns against rip off price increases

By Wiza Alfonsina Msanyama

Some traders and companies in Lilongwe have immediately adjusted the prices of their products following the Reserve Bank of Malawi’s announcement of a 44% devaluation of the kwacha on Thursday night.

A visit to some shops in the city revealed that prices of some items and commodities had gone up as much as 100%.

The shops which have raised their prices include Game Stores, Devil Street, Tsoka Market at Gateway Mall, Crossroads, and Seven-Eleven.

“They are punishing innocent Malawians,” Gwengwe

The move has displeased Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe, who has branded it a “rip-off.”

“They are punishing innocent Malawians,” Gwengwe said.

“The stock they are selling now is old but these people just want to take advantage of the devaluation to make huge profits.”

However, Gwengwe declined to shed more light on the issue, claiming that he was attending a meeting and that the government would issue a press statement through the Competition and Fair Trading Commission.

Despite the price hikes by many shop owners and traders, one big chain store in the country, Sana Cash Carry, has declined to hike prices for old stock, claiming that the company shares the pain that Malawians are going through.

Managing Director for Sana Cash and Carry Rauf Chaudrey said in an interview that all prices for the old stock will remain the same until the time it is cleared.

“We value our customers a lot,” Chaudrey said.

“We cannot take advantage of this devaluation to make more profits but we will raise prices once we get new stock. By doing this we are sharing the burden of devaluation with our customers.”

The devaluation of the kwacha has been described as reckless by some stakeholders, including former Reserve Bank governor Dalitso Kabambe, but other bodies like the MCCCI claim it is good for the ailing economy.

As of yesterday, minibus fares in Lilongwe had already been adjusted by almost 100%.

Seed companies such as Seedco have also raised prices for seeds, which coupled with the increase in fertilizer prices, means that the 2023-24 farming season will be beset with huge challenges.