‘People are now buying cooking oil by the spoon and rice by the cup’

One tuckshop owner claims to sell oil by the tablespoon from R3 to R5 per tablespoon. Photo: Pexels

One tuckshop owner claims to sell oil by the tablespoon from R3 to R5 per tablespoon. Photo: Pexels

Published Oct 5, 2023


The cost of living crisis is a situation in which the cost of basic necessities — such as energy and food — rises substantially faster than typical household incomes.

Although it is a global phenomena, it affects South Africa with its embattled economy and high unemployment rates in a unique way.

It is especially hard for those who live in the townships.

*Moses, a 38-year-old tuckshop owner from the township of Folweni, KwaZulu-Natal, said he had witnessed the first-hand result of soaring food prices.

“Things are bad. People here now buy cooking oil by the spoon because they can only afford to cook one meal. Others get a cup of rice instead of a pack because they want to have a meal before they go to sleep,” he said.

The entrepreneur claimed that he sells the oil, depending on the brand from R3 to R5 per tablespoon. Moses also sells rice from R10 per cup.

He said he worries if this affects the quality and safety of the products but still does it out of necessity.

“I have to keep my business up and running because people complain a lot about food prices, so I agreed to trade these goods in much lower portions.”

According to the Household Affordability Index, the average cost of the average family's grocery basket grew by R349.91 between September 2022 and September 2023.

Among other staple items, statistics from the report show that price of rice increased by eight percent.

*Mhlengi, a 29-year-old unemployed man from Folweni is one of Moses’ customers.

He said that he lives off of sporadic construction jobs and the R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant which he claims to have not received in some months.

“It is embarrassing to not even be able to feed yourself and have to be a nuisance to others by constantly asking for help. It is degrading,” he said.

“With these prices, I don’t know how we are supposed to live. Many of my friends have turned to drugs just to cope. This ends up ruining their lives as they turn into pharas (drug addicts who commits crime) and become a danger to the community.”

The food poverty line (the amount of money that an individual needs to finance the minimum needed daily energy intake) is now R760 per person per month (R25 per day), up from R663 before (increase of14.6 percent), according to Statistics South Africa.

*Names changed for privacy.