September household food baskets softens off highs
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THE September 2021 Household Food Baskets has softened off the August high, caused in part, by the unrest in July unrest that occurred in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, according to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD)
Programme coordinator at PMBEJD Mervyn Abrahams said, however, the drop in prices of Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg were far less than the spikes recorded in August.
“For example, the Joburg food basket declined by -2 percent, R88.60, in September 2021, after increasing by 3.4 percent, R143.27, in August 2021. The Durban food basket declined by even less, by -0.4 percent, R17.55, in September 2021, off its 3.9 percent, R161.60 spike in August 2021. The Pietermaritzburg basket, similarly to Durban, only declined by -0.4 percent, R14,70, off its August 2021 spike of 3.2 percent R128,33. So, whilst these baskets have come down in September 2021, they are still showing the impact of the July unrest,” said Abrahams.
On the other hand, the Cape Town and Springbok baskets increased marginally. On the average household food basket for all areas, marginal increases were shown on rice, samp, potatoes, chicken and beef offal, fish, butternut, spinach, pilchards, apples, oranges and polony.
PMBEJD said the cost of the core foods prioritised and bought first by a household remained a concern.
“Year-on year, this basket of 17 foods, which should ordinarily be affordable and found in everyone’s’ home and which includes maize meal, rice, flour, sugar, sugar beans, oil, bread, onions, potatoes, chicken portions, salt, stock, soup, and tea, whilst declining slightly from August 2021, by -0.6 percent or R14.08, is still relatively very high. In September 2021 this basket of core foods cost R2 278.90 and is R213.19 or 10.3 percent higher than it was a year ago.”
This week, the Agricultural Business Chamber(Agbiz) chief economist Wandile Sihlobo said South Africa’s consumer food price inflation continued to surprise on the upside.
“We thought the start of the second half of the year would moderate the increase we observed in the past few months. But the data released by Statistics South Africa on 22 September 2021 show that consumer food price inflation accelerated to 7.4 percent y/y in August 2021 after registering 7.0 percent in the previous two months. This is the highest level since March 2017,” said Sihlobo.
PMBEJD said South Africa should not dismiss the warning of the updated Food Poverty Line: poverty and inequality is worsening. Abrahams said that Statistics South Africa’s recently updated Food Poverty Line was now at R624 per capita per month. “The Child Support Grant of R460 per child per month (including the emergency SRD R350 grant) is now 26 percent to 44 percent below the Food Poverty Line. Every year our poverty indices get worse.
“The arithmetic is simple, the Food Poverty Line is adjusted annually using the Consumer Price Index’s Food Inflation figures whilst the Child Support Grant (CSG) is adjusted seemingly as per the state’s whims (and it is unknown on what basis the SRD value of R350 was chosen). The CSG has lost value over the past several years. It is pegged far below the actual cost required to feed a child properly. This suggests that the key instrument to directly support our children, and to reduce poverty and inequality in South Africa is being slowly marginalised and perhaps abandoned by South Africa’s leaders.”
The group said this seemed to them that South Africa was now in danger of losing a key instrument in reducing poverty and inequality amongst two-thirds, 30 million, Black South Africans who lived in desperate poverty and for whom the last 27 years of democracy has yielded far too little improvement.
Abrahams said the country had in the Child Support Grant a proven instrument, even at low levels, to effectively improve health, well-being, education, health, social, political, and economic outcomes. If such a critical tool was lost in the efforts to reduce poverty and inequality, the country must recognise that it had nothing else on the table to replace it, he said.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE