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SA is paying nearly 12% more for food than last year

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
South Africans are forking out nearly 12% more for basic food items compared to a year ago.
South Africans are forking out nearly 12% more for basic food items compared to a year ago.
Image: 123rf

The Covid-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, unrest and the KwaZulu-Natal floods have contributed to South Africans forking out nearly 12% more for basic food items compared to a year ago.

The latest Household Affordability Index, compiled by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD) and which tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town Pietermaritzburg and Springbok in the Northern Cape, shows that the average cost of the food basket increased by R472.78 (11.4%), from R4,137.11 in May 2021 to R4,609.89 in May 2022.

Food baskets increased in all areas tracked month-on-month, except Springbok:

  • The Joburg basket increased by R63.43 (1.4%), and R440.88 (10.5%) year-on-year, to R4,626.51 in May.
  • The Durban basket increased by R126.54 (2.8%) and R563.53 (13.6%) year-on-year, to R4,709.59 in May.
  • The Cape Town basket increased by R14.10 (0.3%) and R400.63 (9.9%) year-on-year, to R4,444.52 in May.
  • The Springbok basket decreased by R32.65 (-0.7%) and increased by R372.39 (8.2%) year-on-year, to R4,927.36 in May. However, in April the Springbok basket increased by R225.37.
  • The Pietermaritzburg basket increased by R128.13 (3%) and R509.10 (12.9%) year-on-year, to R4,463.96 in May.

According to the index, 22 of the 44 foods in the basket shot up in price.

“The significant increases (5% and above) are: cooking oil (by an average of R24.67 [14%] on a 5l bottle, with average price in May R201.90), potatoes, onions, chicken livers, carrots and spinach. Increases also include maize meal, cake flour, frozen chicken portions, stock cubes, wors, tomatoes, cabbage and white bread.”

PMBEJD co-ordinator Mervyn Abrahams said higher commodity prices, production and logistical costs would continue to drive prices upwards and are likely to continue rising for the rest of the year.

“Long supply lines make us vulnerable to food insecurity at both global and local levels. Covid-19, the Russia/Ukraine conflict, local climatic disasters and social unrest, including daily service delivery protests which disrupt logistics and production, suggest that we need to seriously rethink our levels of exposure to global commodity price movements and speculation and in the long food supply chains which impact negatively on household food security,” Abrahams said. 

“Our over-exposure to global supply lines suggest we need to build national capacity and reserves as an immediate and long-term mitigation strategy, including investing more in local agricultural input capacity and small-scale farmers to produce food closer to the table where it is consumed. 

“Ensuring household food security is a primary function of government. There is a direct correlation between household food security and societal stability, and with increasing household food insecurity, the risk of social instability has increased significantly.

“The recent flooding in KwaZulu-Natal — for the second time in a matter of weeks — has seen yet another spike in the baskets of Pietermaritzburg and Durban. These come on top of the extremely high April increases, in both cities.

He added: “Heavy rains and flooding impact on agricultural production and produce. The immediate impact, however, is on transporting goods on roads.

“The flooding has caused severe infrastructural damage to a sizeable portion of KwaZulu-Natal’s transportation systems, as well as worsening the already poor road system in parts of the rural agricultural province. 

“We have seen examples over the past 18 months of why a functioning railway system offers food safeguards and security. This time, we saw it with the KZN floods.”

Abrahams said effective and efficient railways are a buffer against disaster — climatic and social unrest — but with the soaring diesel price, railways also offer more efficient, more reliable, and cheaper modes of transportation. 

“SA’s long value chains, which see food that is now grown very far from our tables and having to be transported very long distances to reach our tables, are being put under severe stress from a variety of variables. The long food value chains make us vulnerable to food insecurity, but especially if our fuel prices continue to escalate, and if our transportation systems and governance system are vulnerable.”

TimesLIVE

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