Price increases hitting pockets hard
THE upward trend of food prices means that millions of poor people in South Africa are bound to suffer more.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations recently said the Food Price Index increased by 6% between June and July.
The index, which measures the monthly change in the international prices of a basket of food commodities, averaged 213 points last month, up 12 points from June. That was still well below the peak of 238 points reached in February last year.
Economist Mike Schussler said the price hikes mean a bigger chunk of monthly salaries are spent on food.
"The Food Price Index affects employed and unemployed people. Due to the food price hikes in the past four years, people have fallen way below the poverty line," Schussler said.
Canny Geyer, of the international nongovernmental organisation Oxfam's Economic Justice Campaign in SA, said: "South Africa is considered a food secure nation, yet hunger is escalating and more people are increasingly dependent on family, friends and neighbours for food donations."
Schussler said in most cases people got salary increases that are far below the inflation rate.
"Pensioners who do not get any increase are hit badly by inflation. They are forced to buy less."
According to Statistics South Africa's Consumer Price Index (CPI) urban consumers paid 41.31% more for a 5kg pack of super maize meal and 63.88% more for a 5kg pack of special maize meal in January this year than the same time last year.
The CPI reflects monthly and yearly changes in the cost of a particular basket of goods for the average consumer.
Mariam Mayet, director of the African Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg, said: "In 2008 a 5kg maize meal packet cost R17.58 and it now costs R21.05. In 2012 figures show that rural consumers paid R29.70 for a 5kg maize meal (pack) while urban shoppers paid R32.26."
Gareth Jones, a researcher at the African Centre for Biosafety, said in January this year, consumers in rural areas paid R2.37 more for the same food basket than consumers in urban areas.
Jones credits the difference to the cost of transporting goods.
Craig Binetti, President of Nutrition and Health at DuPont, said indicators show that SA will continue to face rising food inflation in the years ahead, which will continue to make food less affordable for consumers.
"People are often already eating the cheapest food and have little disposable income, which also leaves them with few options to cut back further." - firstname.lastname@example.org