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R561 a month: that's what you need to spend on food to survive

An affordable, nutrient-rich shopping basket may include chicken or beef heads and feet, canned fish and fresh vegetables in additional to maize meal and maize products.
An affordable, nutrient-rich shopping basket may include chicken or beef heads and feet, canned fish and fresh vegetables in additional to maize meal and maize products.

Can you buy enough nutrient-rich food to stay alive? In SA, this means you need a basic income of R561 a month for each person in your household.

This - the food poverty line for 2019 - is the amount of money that an individual will need to afford the minimum required daily energy intake, says Statistics South Africa.

Stats SA's new report on national poverty lines, assessing the cost of basic needs, also found:

  •  The "lower-bound poverty line" was R810 per person per month; and 
  •  The upper-bound poverty line was R1,227 per person per month. 

Ten years ago, the amounts across the categories were R318, R456 and R709.

The three poverty bands were calculated after establishing "a reference food basket on which the food component of welfare is anchored", followed by computation of the cost of the food basket that enables households to meet a normative nutritional standard of 2,100 calories per person per day to derive the food poverty line.

Added to this was a costing of an allowance for the consumption of non-food basic necessities such as clothing, shelter, transportation and education, said Stats SA, to determine the lower- and upper-bound poverty lines.

Costing of the reference food basket was performed using information on item-specific consumption expenditure levels, household composition, and price data from the CPI, said Stats SA.

The process was three-fold, it explained.

First, the amount of energy (calories per 100g 100ml in the case of liquids) of each food item contained in the reference food basket was obtained from the Medical Research Council (MRC) food composition tables and in consultation with the department of health.

Second, using information on mean annualised consumption expenditure on each food item and information on household size, it was possible to compute approximate per capita calories of each item consumed per day.

Third, using the CPI data, the cost per 100g/ml of relevant food items was calculated.

"Altogether, the three pieces of information make it possible to estimate the average per person per day amount of calories consumed of the reference food basket and the associated cost based on the reported item-specific expenditure levels and prevailing prices."

The data helps improve the country’s ability to target developmental policies and programmes.

  • In a separate report, Stats SA had bad news for lower-income earners: Tea prices have surged along with that of products containing sugar.

Prices for sugar and sweet products have climbed sharply over the past 12 months, the consumer price inflation data showed. In June 2018, prices were falling at a rate of 5% per year. In June 2019, the annual price increase was just over 8%.

Prices of black tea were up 4% while rooibos rose more than 11%.

Meat prices showed the first year-on-year increase in five months, with monthly increases seen in beef mince (up 2%), beef steak (up 1.4%) and sausages (up 1.7%).

Housing and utilities make up almost one quarter of the total consumer price index (CPI) in terms of weight (or relative importance).

Landlords are worse off: owner’s equivalent rent has fallen from an average of 4.9% in June 2017 to 3.3% in June 2019.

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