Fuel price hikes igniting poverty
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DURBAN - THE latest fuel price hikes might have a devastating impact on food security and women’s health in particular in the long term.
Julie Smith, a researcher from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, said there has been an alarming increase in the cost of the country’s basic food basket which could potentially lead to malnutrition.
“Over the past 11 months, the price of our food basket has increased by 7.3% or R281 and now stands at just over R4 000 for a household food basket for a family of seven; the recent fuel increase has worsened things,” said Smith.
“Wages and grants are extremely low in South Africa and with the food budget so low, parents and mothers in particular are forced to borrow money to buy food so they can cater for the non-negotiable expenses, including the increase in taxi fares and electricity. Parents will prioritise their children’s school transport and safety and also invest in burial insurance.”
Women, in most cases, are forced to absorb the shortfall in wages and strategise by cutting back on nutritious food, so their children would not have to go to bed hungry, Smith said.
“They go as far as cutting back food with fibre, protein and calcium. Their new family diet would be short of eggs, meat and veggies and they would not find fault if they, as mothers, slept hungry. Women are sacrificing their own bodies so that their children can eat. We are looking at an emerging maternal health crisis with long-term effects,” said Smith.
DA social development spokesperson Bridget Masango said women were not alone in suffering from malnutrition.
“Twenty-seven percent of children are stunted because of malnutrition. Moreover, the situation is dire in social development as the unemployment has gone so high that millions of people are becoming grant beneficiaries,” she said.
“The grants are not enough to alleviate the poverty levels in South Africa. What is even more concerning is that 13.2% of South Africans are living in food poverty. The R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant is much lower than the poverty line. People can only afford to buy food that will not last and the grant will help in eliminating other social ills that people are facing.”
Mervyn Abrahams, programme co-ordinator for the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, proposed a few measures to help fight food insecurity at grassroots level.
Abrahams said fuel was a major input cost into agriculture and the entire value chain of food, transport and logistics. Its increase would immediately lead to increased food prices.
He said the SRD amount was insufficient for people to live off with the wage trajectories historically extremely low in the country.
“The government needs to ensure that people can live… Their grants and basic income wages should be increased. SRD grants should also be increased to at least R1 000 and administered more effectively and efficiently. Registered South African Social Security Agency child support grant beneficiaries should get the SRD grant automatically without having to reapply,” said Abrahams.
South African motorists suffered a bombshell after the announcement of an increase in fuel prices this week. Both petrol grades increased by 91 cents a litre and diesel by 55 cents.
A litre of 95 unleaded petrol costs R17.58 in coastal areas and R18.30 inland. A litre of 93 unleaded petrol costs R18.11. In the meantime, diesel would be accessible only to those willing to pay R15.06 in coastal areas and R15.66 inland.