A shopping trolley filled with groceries Picture: Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - Following months of stability and even a decrease in the prices of some basic foods, the picture has started to change as prices start to climb again.

This is according to data released by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, which has been tracking food prices based on a basket of basic foods, designed with the help of Pietermaritzburg-based women living on low incomes.

The data shows that from June to August this year food prices were in decline. However, September signalled the start of upward price movements in food prices, with this month signalling the second consecutive month of increases.

“Dealing with the food affordability crisis requires greater economic activity, finding ways to increase incomes and reducing the cost of all goods and services households require,” the NGO states in its recent report.

It believes that social grants paid by government are simply not enough.

“In October 2018 it cost R572.09 to feed a small child aged 10-13 years a basic nutritious diet per month. The Child Support Grant of R410 per month is set below the food poverty line and further below the cost to secure a basic nutritious diet,” reads the report.

Clif Johnston, the vice-chairman of the SA National Consumer Union, said his organisation tracks the prices of essentials but could not give figures on the current food prices as they rely on data from Stats SA which is a month behind.

“It is true that food prices had stabilised or even gone down in some instances. We had however anticipated that at some stage there will be increases because the businesses can only keep absorbing the costs up to a point,” Johnston said.

He said part of the decrease in food prices in the recent past were because the consumer, hit by other price increases, had been spending less and less on food. This then forced the prices to go down. “But there had to be a bottom,” he said.

Johnston said food price increases will simply mean that consumers will buy even less food.

Economist Dawie Roodt agreed that, generally, there was bound to be an increase in food prices.

He said this was due to a number of factors, one of which was that the country was experiencing broad based price increases including the petrol price hikes which were likely to directly affect food prices.

“This will put even more pressure on the average consumer and it is the poor that will suffer the most,” Roodt said.

Johnston said consumers will need to be smart about how they spend their money. “First, if there is money, use it to pay off debt. Second, they need to shop around for discounts because sometimes prices drop dramatically. Don’t forget the smaller traders and smaller places as they are more likely to be cheaper compared to the big supermarkets who have high overheads.”

The Mercury