Consumers feel the pinch as food prices continue to soar

Food baskets for basic items continue to increase in South Africa. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Food baskets for basic items continue to increase in South Africa. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 9, 2021


Cash-strapped consumers continue to pay more for food as prices soar.

Despite the petrol prices having dropped slightly by 9c per litre and diesel going down by 31c per litre this week, consumers are not expected to feel much of a relief with the price of a basic food basket said to be the highest since September last year.

According to the latest figures from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity’s household affordability index, the average cost of food basket for the country stood at R4 198.93 for April. This was an increase of R159.37 or 3.9% from March.

And for Cape Town households, the price of food rose by R161.31 from the previous month’s figure of R3 960.44.

“All household food baskets in April are at the highest level since September 2020. (Around) 36 of all foods in the average basket went up, the increases were across the board. Core staple foods, vegetables and means went up,” said the organisation.

Increases were recorded in the following stable items:

* 30kg maize meal went up from R253.22 to R260.97 which was an increase of R7.75

* 10kg bag of white sugar went up from R165.74 to R168.74 which was an increase of R3

* 60 eggs went from R99.81 to R113.76, an increase of R13.95.

* 10kg bag of onions went up from R65.03 to R72.95, an increase of R7.92

* Cooking oil 5l went from R108.30 to R118.03 which was a R9.72 increase.

South Africans are not the only ones feeling the brunt of soaring food prices – the United Nations Food Agency said this week, world food prices had increased for the 11th consecutive month in April, hitting the highest levels since May 2014.

Head for consumer, food and agriculture at Rand Merchant Bank John van Tubbergh said food manufacturers were themselves faced with the soaring prices from key agricultural products they use to manufacture basic foodstuff.

“Amid a still weak economy with households financially under strain, this leaves food manufacturers with some difficult decisions to make, (they) have already responded by cutting internal costs and optimising processes in order to help reduce the pressure on margins,” he said.

“South African consumers face many headwinds, key among them higher fuel prices, as well as increased municipal rates and taxes. All this is at a time when many working individuals have also had to accept zero salary increases and even worse, outright pay cuts because of the severe economic impact of last year’s Covid-19 lockdowns.

“Consumers will, therefore, be very sensitive to any further sharp price increases, dynamic food manufacturers no doubt would be aware of in today’s ever more competitive corporate landscape.”

According to the last consumer price index (CPI) figures by Statistics SA, annual inflation for food and non-food beverages went up to 5.7% in March from 5.2% in February.

And the products that recorded annual price increases that went over the 5.7% average included fats and oils at 13.4%, sugar, sweets and desserts at 7.4%, milk, eggs and cheese at 7.2%, fish 6.8% and meat at 6.7%.

MEC for Social Development Sharna Fernandez said an additional R25 million is being made available for food relief programmes in the province to assist those in need, particularly after the R350 temporary unemployment grant came to an end.

“We remain aware of the food crisis that we are facing in the city, province and country as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic impact thereof. While the provincial department of social development has made additional funding available for humanitarian relief, I am concerned that thousands of vulnerable people will find themselves without any form of state support as a result of the special R350 Covid grant that came to an end on 30 April 2021,” she said.

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