THE cost of the household food basket continued to rise as global and local factors including the war in the Ukraine, the high brent crude oil and fuel prices, and a weak exchange rate impact on the plate, says the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD).
The group’s Programme Coordinator Mervyn Abrahams, said that the much higher production and logistical costs would continue to drive prices upwards and were likely to continue rising for the rest of this year. “The recent flooding in KwaZulu-Natal (not accounted for in this April data as prices were collected before the rains) would add to these increases going forward.” Abrahams said.
PMBEJD’s April 2022 Household Affordability Index In April 2022 showed that the average cost of the Household Food Basket was R4 542.93. Month-on-month the average cost of the Household Food Basket increased by R92.84 (2.1 percent), from R4 450.09 in March 2022 to R4 542,93 in April 2022. Year-on-year, the average cost of the Household Food Basket increased by R344 (8.2 percent), from R4 198.93 in April 2021 to R4 542,93 in April 2022.
The April 2022 Household Affordability Index, tracked food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries, in Johannesburg (Soweto, Alexandra, Tembisa and Hillbrow), Durban (KwaMashu, Umlazi, Isipingo, Durban CBD and Mtubatuba), Cape Town (Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Philippi, Langa, Delft and Dunoon), Pietermaritzburg and Springbok (in the Northern Cape).
Abrahams said that once again as it had done in response to the need to restrict movement and shut down economic activity to contain Covid-19, the government may have to introduce a top-up on social grants to buffer against hunger.
“We may be facing another such crisis, which may require a similar immediate intervention. Perhaps it is worth being on call, should food prices continue to escalate. Government intervention may be required and increasing social grants have shown to be effective.”
Food baskets increased in all areas tracked. In Johannesburg the basket increased by R65.86 (1.5 percent), and R242.49 (5.6 percent) year-on-year, to R4 563.09 in April 2022.
The Durban basket increased by R138.27 (3.1 percent) and R409.21 (9.8 percent) year-on-year, to R4 583,05 in April 2022. The Cape Town basket increased by R75.90 (1.7 percent) and R308.67 (7.5 percent) year-on-year, to R4 430.42 in April 2022.
The Springbok basket increased by R225.37 (4.8 percent) and R449.46 (10 percent) year-on-year to R4 960.01 in April 2022. The Pietermaritzburg basket increased by R98.31 (2.3 percent) and R449,65 (11.6 percent) year-on-year, to R4 335.83 in April 2022.
The PMBEJD said that some 35 out of 44 foods in the basket increased in price. The significant increases (5 percent and above) were for cooking oil, potatoes, beef, fish, spinach, cabbage, green pepper, tinned pilchards, bananas, polony, and apricot jam. There were also substantial increases in the price of maize meal, cake flour, rice, white sugar, samp, eggs, milk, frozen chicken portions, margarine, peanut butter, bread; and curry powder, and stock cubes.
Statistics South Africa’s latest Consumer Price Index for March 2022, showed that Headline inflation was 5.9 percent, and for the lowest expenditure quintiles 1-3, it was 6.7 percent, 6.4 percent and 5.7 percent respectively. CPI Food inflation was 6.6 percent.
The PMBEJD said that at the retail level, supermarkets had responded by rounding on the higher food prices by bringing in a lot of new cheaper brands, offering shop brands, offering specials (some unbelievable), ‘combos’ (maize meal, rice, flour, sugar, oil; potatoes, onions, carrots etc.) and store cards.
Abrahams said that they had asked women if these supermarket specials and new offerings helped, and the response was mostly ‘yes’.
“The supermarket offerings of savings do seem to help but nobody really knows the real fair cost of food now, so it all seems a bit of trickery–dazzle with a savings here while they pick your pocket there.”
He said that the current food price shocks were happening on food baskets that have been unaffordable for the past few years, and most families now only bought the most basic foods as there was nothing to cut back, and no more behavioural changes left to make.
“Women have exhausted their strategies. There is no space to manoeuvre on the family plate. The space that is left is on finding cheaper priced food. This space is the domain of the retailers,” Abrahams said.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE