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South Africans feeling the pain as basic food basket up R500 on a year ago

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
In November 2021 a basic food basket cost R4,272.44. This year it cost R4,835.96.
In November 2021 a basic food basket cost R4,272.44. This year it cost R4,835.96.
Image: 123RF/sompongtom

South Africans are forking out more than R500 more each month for basic food items compared with a year ago.

This is according to the latest Household Affordability Index, compiled by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD).

The index tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Springbok in the Northern Cape.

It shows that the average cost of a food basket in November 2021 was R4,272.44, while in the same month this year it was R4,835.96, a R563.52 increase.

Foods which increased in price in November by more than 4% include maize meal, cake flour, samp, onions, wors, fish, carrots, apples, oranges and apricot jam.

“This month sees a lot of price differences between areas, with a lot of different types of foods spiking. This month it is the Durban basket that has pushed up the price of the national average basket. [This] basket increased by R155,09,” said PMBEJD programme co-ordinator Mervyn Abrahams.

The latest index highlights the following points:

  • Johannesburg saw increases mostly on vegetables and fruit.
  • Durban saw increases almost across the board: maize meal (17%), flour (14%), samp (13%) and cooking oil (7%). The prices of dairy products, meat, onions (15%), spinach and oranges also increased.
  • Cape Town increases were mainly on meat, potatoes, onions, salt, soups and stocks.
  • Springbok, as with Durban, showed a high number of foods spiking, specifically flour, sugar, meat, vegetables, including onions and green peppers, tomatoes, and white and brown bread.
  • Pietermaritzburg prices were subdued, with few increases. Prices rose on milk, onions, carrots, green peppers, apples and oranges.

Abrahams said food prices are “notoriously unpredictable and different areas experience their own set of variables which push or pull down prices”.

The report states that in November the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet was R838.65. In the past month this average increased by R13.34 or 1.6%. Year-on-year, this increased by R93.69 or 12.6%.

Abrahams said the R480 child support grant is 28% below the food poverty line of R663 and 43% below the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet.

“The national minimum wage is R23.19 an hour and R185.52 for an eight-hour day. In November, with 22 working days, the maximum national minimum wage for a general worker is R4,081.44. 

“The November 2022 cost of a basic nutritional food basket for a family of four is R3,287.44.”

PMBEJD said using Pietermaritzburg-based figures, electricity and transport took up 58.1% of a worker’s wage (R2,371.50/R4,081.44).

“Food is bought after monies for transport and electricity have been paid for or set aside (leaving only R1,709.94 for food and everything else). So in November 2022 PMBEJD calculates that workers’ families will underspend on food by a minimum of 48% (having R1,709.94 left after transport and electricity, with food costing R3,287,44),” said Abrahams.


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