Durban - CONSUMERS can expect to pay higher prices at the tills for basic groceries and meat this festive season.
Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity’s (PMBEJD) November 2020 Household Affordability Index released yesterday showed that food prices had risen by 4.2% over the past three months.
PMBEJD programme co-ordinator Mervyn Abrahams said food price data collected over the past three months showed that the average cost of the Household Food Basket had increased by R161.89 to R4 018.22 in November. The Household Food Basket tracks 44 basic foods which women living in low-income households attest to buying each month.
Food prices are collected in the low-income markets including Soweto, Alexandra, Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, KwaMashu and uMlazi.
“These increases in basic food prices in the trolleys of the majority of South Africans are alarming, especially as the festive season approaches and with school reopening dates having been pushed back to January 27. January is a month that stretches out like a mirage,” Abrahams said.
The national minimum wage for a general worker this month was R3 487.68, which is less than the cost of the basic household food basket at R4 018.22.
Abrahams said this showed that low-paid workers did not even earn enough to afford a basket of food for their families, even before deducting transport and electricity costs.
“Our data at household level continues to paint a picture of escalating hunger, debt, unemployment, violence, poverty and inequality. Health and well-being continue to deteriorate,” Abrahams said. He said households were facing a “horrifying” affordability and economic crisis.
The main foods that are driving higher increases in the basket over the past three months were core foods that women buy first: maize meal (6%), rice (1%), cake flour (2%), white sugar (2%), sugar beans (23%), samp (6%), cooking oil (2%), potatoes (35%), white and brown bread (4% and 3%).
“Many women we speak with no longer believe that the government will intervene to assist them. They tell us that it will be hard but they will survive,” he said. He added that a Soweto woman had told researchers: “We eat pap from Monday to Sunday” and a Dunoon woman reported that “We will just eat starch, starch, starch. It is bad for us, but what can we do?”
FNB senior agricultural economist Paul Makude said meat prices would remain high this festive season.
He said the monthly consumer price inflation (CPI) for meat was expected to remain “sticky on the upside” relative to last year. The meat CPI increased by 4.4% year on year during September 2020 in the last Statistics SA release.
“Seasonal demand for meat remains solid and has outweighed the relatively higher slaughter rate in the livestock complex, which would normally have resulted in lower prices due to the increased availability of the product,” Makude said.
He said beef prices had risen by 15%, while lamb and mutton were 28% and 40% higher respectively compared to 2019 prices.
“The upswing in the pig market continued, with pork producer prices retaining levels above R30/kg due to resilient demand and tighter volumes. Prices are now 15% and 9% higher from the 2019 levels respectively for pork and baconers,” Makude said.
“Unlike other meat types, chicken product categories show a mixed trend, with downward pressure for fresh whole birds, while the frozen whole birds and IQF strengthened relative to 2019 levels,” he said.