Maverick Citizen

Food Justice


Prices for basic items are levelling off, with increases in some essentials, tracking reveals

Prices for basic items are levelling off, with increases in some essentials, tracking reveals
Prices for our food basket remain similar to our basket of 14 goods in November, but experts say it costs 13% more to buy food than it did last January. (Photo: Naledi Sikhakhane)

Prices for basic items in our food basket have plateaued from the last month, with a slight increase in maize meal and tea. Inflation will decrease all over the world, but South Africans might still see a rise in food prices due to rolling blackouts. In its food inflation brief, the Bureau for Food and Agriculture Policy said the costs of operating under blackouts and the waste due to rotting food will be absorbed by the customer.

Maverick Citizen has been tracking the prices of 14 basic items using R350, the amount of the Social Relief of Distress grant. This month the basket costs up to R13 more than the R350, an improvement from previous months where it cost close to R400. It is still unaffordable to a person who only receives the grant and has minimal protein and vegetables.

“The impact of load shedding on the economy and the food system is severe. Load shedding increases costs directly, and indirectly through higher rates of wastage and spoilage within food chains. Financial results from several food companies indicate that fuel expenses to run generators during load shedding are skyrocketing. These costs cannot be absorbed in the chain and are to a large extent passed on to consumers. In fact, we expect that load shedding will be a key factor that prevents South Africa from following the global trends of decreasing food price inflation during 2023,” the brief read.

This food inflation brief is a collaboration between the bureau and Dr Marlene Louw from Absa Agribusiness, based on Statistics South Africa CPI and food retail price data.

“Although the overall inflation rate in South Africa has decreased over the past six months, albeit rather modestly, food inflation remains sticky. This is a result of several supply shocks in various agricultural commodity and livestock markets around the globe. These shocks have, in turn, also filtered through to the local market,” it read.

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Maverick Citizen has reported on soup kitchen runners who struggle to feed people and have their capacity by 70% due to food prices that have rocketed over the past few years. The hunger crisis is also seen in the greater need for food in other places such as early childhood centres and clinics, where professionals have asked the Social Development Department for food parcels.

Read in Daily Maverick:Grant recipients remain in dire straits despite moderately falling food costs 

The latest Household Affordability Index by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group shows that food prices in South Africa continued to shoot up at the start of the year.

In January 2023, the average cost of the group’s household food basket was 11.7% more than it was in January 2022. It was R4,917.42 – up by R64.42 (1.3%) from R4,853 in December 2022, and up R516.40 (11.7%) from R4,401.02 in January 2022. It costs South Africans more than R500 more to buy a balanced nutritious grocery basket than it did last year at this time. MC/DM


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