Food prices soar

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

Rocketing oil prices, both mineral and vegetable, fuelled March's inflation into double digits and the poor are being hardest hit.

Food prices spiralled half as fast as the overall inflation rate and fastest for the poor.

The consumer price index excluding mortgages (CPIX), the Reserve Bank's gauge for interest rate decisions, came in yesterday at 10,1percent.

The consensus among economists is that inflation has now peaked and should start to gradually slow - unless Eskom gets its requested 60percent electricity tariff increase.

Efficient Group economist Doret Els was less optimistic, however, predicting a peak only in August and adding that if Eskom gets the full increase it has asked for, inflation could average nearly 11percent.

Vegetarians and teetotallers are being hard hit, according to Statistics South Africa's inflation basket. Vegetable oils, possibly driven by the global demand for vegetable-based biofuels, inflated most over the year, with a 52percent price jump in the year to March.

Dairy products went up by more than a quarter, grain products nearly as much and vegetables 17percent.

Meanwhile, meat and fish price rises slowed to 8,3percent and 7,8percent respectively.

High grain inflation means poor families who depend on maize are being hit hardest.

The average food basket for very low and low income households got nearly 17percent more expensive. Richer people who tend to eat more protein suffered less, with inflation slowing to 16,2percent for middle income, 15,7percent for high income, and 14,6percent for very high income households.