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Food prices to rise by as much as 10%, warns economic rights advocacy group

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
Food prices are expected to soar in 2021, a civil society group has predicted. File photo.
Food prices are expected to soar in 2021, a civil society group has predicted. File photo.

The cost of food is predicted to rocket by as much as 10% this year driven in part by higher crude oil prices, an increase in fuel levies and electricity hikes.

This is according to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group, which released its latest household affordability index report on Wednesday.

The index - which tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries, in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Springbok - showed that in the last six months the average cost of a basic food basket increased by 3.8%.

A basic food basket - which includes 44 items - now costs about R4,000 per month.

“2021 will see a deepening household affordability crisis, with core household expenses like transport, electricity and food increasing way above inflation, while wage increases will continue to remain low,” said the group's Mervyn Abrahams.

He accused finance minister Tito Mboweni and the government of “contributing to this deepening crisis by setting the annual increments on the old age grant and child support grant, incomes used by households to buy food for children and pay for essential services, way below inflation in this year's budget speech. 

“Conditions at household level have worsened since the start of the pandemic. Jobs have been lost, wages cut, and money must spread further."

The index showed a R50 decrease in the cost of the food basket between January and February but Abrahams warned it will be short-lived.

“February is always a difficult time for consumers, who have the additional pressures of finding money to cover education costs, and therefore have less money to spend on groceries. 

“Retailers which target the low-income market tend to respond with more specials during this period. February also, consistent with our historical food price trends, tend to be lower due to subdued vegetable prices. 

“We therefore expect the decrease in the cost of a household food basket in February 2021 to be short-lived, while cautioning that higher fuel prices and electricity prices are likely to push food prices upwards in the near future.”

According to the report, data shows that workers prioritising expenditure on transport, electricity and educational expenses - much higher in February - have had to cut back on food expenses “quite severely this month”.

“Millions of workers, facing a continuous monthly shortfall on wages, are forced to eat less nutritious food, with mothers bearing the brunt of this sacrifice, and must take on higher levels of more expensive credit to cover wage shortfalls. 

“Not ensuring that mothers are able to feed their children properly is a direct form of everyday violence against women and children. This is not acceptable.

“Previously we have argued that underspending on children has long-term consequences for our education outcomes, our health outcomes, our social outcomes, and our economic outcomes,” said Abrahams.


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