Cost of living crisis continues as the price of an average food basket increases 8.3% in a year

Year-on-year, it increased by R407,44 (8,3%), from R4 917,42 in January 2023 to R5 324,86 in January 2024. Photographer: Armand Hough. Independent Newspapers.

Year-on-year, it increased by R407,44 (8,3%), from R4 917,42 in January 2023 to R5 324,86 in January 2024. Photographer: Armand Hough. Independent Newspapers.

Published Jan 24, 2024


In January the average cost of an average household food basket had increased by 1.7% since December last year in January this year while year on year, it had increased by a whopping 8,3%.

This was revealed by the January 2024 Household Affordability Index and Key Data, compiled by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group, which shows that the cost of living crisis for South Africans is simply not going away.

In the index, it showed that in January 2024, the average cost of the Household Food Basket is R5 324,86.

Month-on-month, the food basket increased by R86,66 (1,7%), from R5 238,20 in December 2023 to R5 324,86 in January 2024.

Year-on-year, it increased by R407,44 (8,3%), from R4 917,42 in January 2023 to R5 324,86 in January 2024.

The following foods increased in price in January 2024.

Foods which increased in price in January 2024, by 5% or more, include:

  • rice (5%),
  • white sugar (5%),
  • potatoes (13%),
  • curry powder (6%),
  • stock cubes (5%),
  • soup (7%),
  • beef (5%),
  • tomatoes (14%),
  • carrots (7%),
  • spinach (6%),
  • and green pepper (6%).

Foods which increased in price in January 2024, by 2% or more, include:

  • maize meal (4%),
  • sugar beans (4%),
  • samp (2%),
  • salt (2%),
  • frozen chicken portions (2%),
  • chicken feet (3%),
  • cabbage (2%),
  • tinned pilchards (2%),
  • bananas (4%),
  • apples (3%),
  • margarine (4%),
  • peanut butter (3%),
  • and polony (3%).

Statistics South Africa’s latest Consumer Price Index.

Statistics South Africa’s latest Consumer Price Index for November 2023 showed that headline inflation was 5,5%, and for the lowest expenditure quintiles 1-4, it is 9,1%, 8,3%, and 7,1% respectively.

CPI Food inflation was 9,0%.

The December 2023 CPI’s expected release date is later today.

Stats SA’s Producer Price Index for November 2023 shows agriculture was 7,7%.

Inflation on the food baskets per area tracked.

In January 2024, food baskets increased in all areas tracked (Joburg, Durban, Cape Town, Springbok, Pietermaritzburg and Mtubatuba).

The Joburg basket increased by R13,68 (0,3%) month-on-month, and increased by R488,49 (10,0%) year-on-year, to R5 361,77 in January 2024.

The Durban basket increased by R149,17 (2,9%) month-on-month, and increased by R387,39 (7,8%) year-on-year, to R5 362,38 in January 2024.

The Cape Town basket increased by R84,44 (1,6%) month-on-month, and increased by R268,75 (5,4%) year-on-year, to R5 217,22 in January 2024.

The Springbok basket increased by R22,82 (0,4%) month-on-month, and increased by R843,42 (17,7%) year-on-year, to R5 620,55 in January 2024.

The Maritzburg basket increased by R203,74 (4,0%) month-on-month, and increased by R387,79 (8,0%) year-on-year, to R5 238,76 in January 2024.

The Mtubatuba basket increased by R191,36 (3,6%) month-on-month, and increased by R255,76 (4,9%) year-on-year, to R5 467,49 in January 2024.


The National Minimum Wage is R25,42 an hour and R203.36 for an 8-hour day.

In January 2024, with 22 working days, the maximum National Minimum Wage for a General Worker is R4 473,92.

“The wage workers earn is not just to sustain themselves alone, it is used to support the entire family. For Black South African workers, one wage typically must support 3,9 people. Dispersed in a worker’s family of 4 persons, the NMW, is reduced to R1 118,48 per person – this is below the upper-bound poverty line of R1 558 per person per month,” the group said in a statement.

The January 2024 cost of a basic nutritional food basket for a family of four persons is R3 741,46.

“On our calculations, using Pietermaritzburg-based figures for electricity and transport, and the average figure for a minimum nutritional basket of food for a family of four, puts electricity, and transport, taking up 59,6% of a worker’s wage (R2 666,92/R4 473,92). Food is bought after monies for transport and electricity have been paid for or set aside (leaving only R1 807,00 – for food and everything else), and so in January 2024, PMBEJD calculates that workers’ families will underspend on food by a minimum of 51,7% (having R1 807,00 left after transport and electricity, and with food costing R3 741,46). In this scenario there is no possibility of a worker being able to afford enough nutritious food for her family. If the entire R1 807,00 all went to buy food, then for a family of 4 persons, we are looking at R451,75 per person per month. This is below the food poverty line of R760,” the PMBEJD further stated.

Women and children

In January 2024, the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet was R953,75.

Over the past month, the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet increased by R14,02 or 1,5%.

Year-on-year, the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet increased by R100,72 or 11,8%.

In January 2024, the Child Support Grant of R510 is 33% below the Food Poverty Line of R760, and 47% below the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet (R953,75).

“Women tell us that the Child Support Grant received in January is used to buy shoes, uniforms, and stationery for school children. In January the grocery shops are almost empty, but the school clothing shops are full of mothers. More and more women are part of stokvels who bulk buy the core staple foods in December, and so in January core staple food is still in the house. Food stokvels are one of the strategies women use to assist them to free up money to cover the festive season’s higher grocery purchases and the extra-ordinary school expenses in January. The savings that go into the stokvels for this purpose arise not out of surplus money during the year, but by women cutting back on their own nutritional needs and other critical expenses. Not all women are able to save money into stokvels, and therefore the grant money all going to secure uniforms and shoes and stationery will mean that families will eat very poorly in January,” PMBEJD stated.

“School expenses are a non-negotiable expense, children cannot go back to school with shoes and clothes that they have outgrown during the latter part of the year and the December holidays, nor without the stationery they need in the classroom. School expenses are a significant expense which parents must plan for and absorb as best they can to give their children the best possible start to the New School Year,” the index pointed out.

To give a brief sense of the cost of some basic uniform expenses, bought from low-cost school clothing shops, women have shared with the PMBEJD the following for a girl attending primary school:

  • School shoes: R130 – R149,99 (not a quality brand which go for around R320 to R350)
  • A pair of white socks: R12,99 – R17,99
  • A school jersey: R90 - R99,95
  • A white shirt: R59,99
  • A school dress: R120 – R240

“We have previously suggested that, in the absence of a comprehensive programme to subsidise school shoes, uniforms and stationery, it would be useful for government to provide an additional grant allocation, something akin to a “back-2-school grant’’ in January to assist parents with getting their children ready for the New School Year. Scholar expenses are very expensive. Whilst an additional grant will not cover all scholar expenses, it will lessen the amounts of money parents have to borrow from loan sharks, and which they must pay back with exorbitant interest throughout the year, removing food off the plates of their children and putting enormous stress on women,” PMBEJD further said.

Household domestic and personal hygiene products

The January 2024 Household Domestic and Personal Hygiene Index shows an increase of R6,22 (0,6%) month-on-month.

Year-on-year the household domestic and personal hygiene products index increased by R84,94 (9,2%) bringing the total average cost of basic household domestic and personal hygiene products to R1 005,81 in January 2024

“The cost of basic hygiene products is high. These products compete in the household purse with food. These products are essential for good health and hygiene,” the PMBEJD said.