The average cost of household food baskets across South Africa has increased by R384.78, or 10 percent, to R4 241.11 over the past 12 months, according to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD). Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg
The average cost of household food baskets across South Africa has increased by R384.78, or 10 percent, to R4 241.11 over the past 12 months, according to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD). Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg

Household shopping basket price tag rises 10% in a year

By Given Majola Time of article published Aug 26, 2021

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THE AVERAGE cost of household food baskets across South Africa has increased by R384.78, or 10 percent, to R4 241.11 over the past 12 months, according to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD).

Releasing the August Household Affordability Index, the group’s programme co-ordinator, Mervyn Abrahams, said this month’s data showed that all baskets, regardless of the region, increased in August.

Abrahams described the 12-month hikes in the household food basket as frightening.

The Durban basket had increased by R487.92, or 12.8 percent, to R4 228.51 over the past 12 months. The Joburg basket had increased by R444.26, or 11.4 percent, to R4 331.13 over the past 12 months.

The Pietermaritzburg basket had increased by R414.68, or 11.3 percent, to R4 093.00 over the past 12 months. The Springbok basket had increased by R503, or 12.4 percent, to R4 564.82 over the past 12 months.

And the Cape Town basket, which had seen the lowest increases over the past 12 months, was also at its highest level in August. The basket had increased by R178.24, or 4.6 percent, to R4 080.72 over the past 12 months, said Abrahams.

The index showed that the average cost of the Household Food Basket was R4 241.11, an increase of R103.69 (2.5 percent) between July and August.

The Durban food basket increased by R161.60 (3.9 percent) in this period, followed by the Joburg basket, which increased by R143.27 (3.4 percent), and the Pietermaritzburg basket, which increased by R128.33 (3.2 percent).

The Household Affordability Index tracks food price data from 41 supermarkets and 30 butcheries in Joburg (Soweto, Alexandra, Tembisa and Hillbrow), Durban (KwaMashu, Umlazi, Isipingo, Durban CBD and Mtubatuba), Cape Town (Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Philippi, Langa, Delft and Dunoon), Pietermaritzburg and Springbok (in the Northern Cape).

The group said this month has seen massive hikes in the household food baskets of Joburg, Durban and Pietermaritzburg, where most of the riots had taken place. This was linked to the two weeks in July and the severe disruption of transportation routes, burning of trucks on highways, closed off roads, and the looting and destruction of supermarkets and other shops.

The PMBEJD said the food price spikes indicated that households were enduring great hardship, which required the government’s intervention. The group said that at the very minimum the Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month must be paid out immediately, as well as The Destroyed, Affected or Looted Workplaces: Temporary Financial Relief Scheme. It said these measures were small and would not solve the problem, but would help while the bigger economic questions were being dealt with.

Abrahams said households living on low incomes and workers earning low wages spent a very large portion of their incomes on food and electricity.

“A 10 percent increase on basic food stuffs and a 14.95 percent increase on electricity will play havoc with the ability of households to function. For workers who have recently lost their jobs in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and families who have been barely holding on during the past two years, these spikes in the costs of basic needs will precipitate a massive crisis in homes. Emergency relief is needed,” said Abrahams.

Agricultural Business Chamber chief economist Wandile Sihlobo said this week that although consumer food price inflation of 7 percent year-on-year in July was unchanged from the previous month, there were signs that pressures were beginning to ease.

“We are seeing a similar trend in the global market, with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Global Food Price Index, which slowed for the second consecutive month in July. After all, the acceleration in South Africa’s consumer food price inflation from late 2020 and in the first half of 2021 was not necessarily driven by domestic factors, but mostly unfavourable spillover effects from the global market,” said Sihlobo.

Sihlobo said oils and fats, whose price direction was largely influenced by global vegetable oil price trends and were among the products keeping food inflation at higher levels in July, could also soften in the coming months.

Sihlobo said global prices were already on a downward path.

“Meat, which also increased slightly in July, is likely to soften in the coming months and the high-frequency data is already pointing to a downward trend. We attribute this to a potential increase in domestic meat supplies. Overall, all else being equal, South Africa’s consumer food price inflation has probably now peaked and the coming months will present some moderation.”

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