bread hits the pocket

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Poor households will be forced to dig even deeper into their pockets as food prices soar and one major bakery raised the price of bread by 40 cents a loaf yesterday.

"My customers complain every time they come to buy bread. I just show them the letter from Tiger Brands showing the increases," said Mohammed Ibrahim, who owns a tuckshop in Florida, west of Johannesburg.

One of his customers chipped in to say he had started buying brown bread at R6,75 a loaf.

Tiger Brands, which produces Albany bread, says it raised prices because of the high cost of wheat and transportation.

Pioneer Foods will raise the price of its Sasko loaves and Premier Foods will increase the price of its Blue Ribbon bread in the next few days.

A standard loaf of brown bread now costs between R5,50 and R7, while white bread costs between R6 and R7.

"I buy three loaves every day for my grandchildren. This means I have to find alternative food because I cannot afford the new price," said 64-year-old Florence Magadla, of Meadowlands, Soweto.

Lucky Rammitlwa said he now looked for cheaper bread baked by retailers such as supermarkets. "I buy freshly-baked white bread from the in-house bakery at Shoprite. That is more affordable at R4, than branded bread."

The days of government-regulated food prices are long gone. Institutions such as the Meat Board and the Maize Board have the power to regulate prices.

"The government does not regulate food prices any longer," said Ronald Ramabulana, chief executive of the National Agricultural Marketing Council.

"We only monitor food prices on a quarterly basis. We will, however, be looking into what the 40 cent increase is attributed to and take it from there."

Thami Bolani, chairman of the National Consumer Forum, said the government should support small businesses to make the bread market more competitive.

"The government and the private sector should be making it easier for entrepreneurs to start bakeries and provide the necessary competition, to halt bread price increases," said Bolani.

The recent price increase comes a few months after Tiger Brands was fined R99,8 million for fixing the bread price with other large baking companies, including Premier and Pioneer.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the increase would add to hardships faced by millions of poor families struggling with the prices of food, fuel, school uniforms and other essential items.

"Food price increases are the biggest single driver of inflation, yet the Reserve Bank says nothing to condemn these increases," said Craven.