Maverick Citizen

Food Justice

FOOD BASKET CHECK

Inflation cooling, but basic food basket remains unaffordable for SRD grant recipients

Inflation cooling, but basic food basket remains unaffordable for SRD grant recipients
Food inflation continues to slow, but this brings little relief to Social Relief of Distress grant recipients as the food basket is still unaffordable. (Photo: Naledi Sikhakhane)

As some experts predicted, food basket prices decreased from January to February 2024. This is due to a softening of food inflation that has been declining since late 2023 and is now at 7.2% year on year. Our food basket costs almost R80 more than the R350 SRD grant.

Maverick Citizen has been tracking the prices of 14 basic food items a consumer can buy with R350, the amount of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant.

While the government has kept the grant in place, calls to increase it have not been heeded.

The grant is considered a lifeline for millions of unemployed South Africans with no other form of income

Our food basket saw a slight increase by R4 from January to February 2024. Most product prices stayed the same as they were in January, with decreases in yeast, curry powder and soup.

food basket

According to Statistics South Africa’s consumer price index, annual inflation for food slowed to 7.2% in January from 8.5% in December and 9% in November.

“All subcategories recorded lower annual rates, apart from sugar, sweets and desserts, oils and fats, and cold beverages… Annual inflation for bread and cereal products declined from 7.5% in December to 6.5% in January. Meat inflation was also softer, cooling from 3.9% to 2.2%,” said Stats SA.

The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group’s expanded February edition of the Household Affordability Index report reflects the impact of the inflation decrease.

“The average cost of the foods prioritised and bought first in the household food basket decreased by R27.32 (-1%) from R2,837.56 in January 2024 to R2,810.24 in February 2024.

“Year on year the food basket increased by R104,71 (3.9%) from R2,705.53 in February 2023 to R2,810.24 in February 2024,” the report read.

“The data shows that the core foods contribute 53% of the total cost of the Household Food Basket. At an average cost of R2,810.24 in February 2024, these foods are relatively expensive in relation to the total money available in the household purse to secure food. These foods must be bought regardless of price escalations,” it continues.

Maverick Citizen’s food basket has been unaffordable for SRD grant recipients for well over a year – and it only looks at the 14 basic food items. This excludes transport costs to access the grant, personal hygiene products, airtime and data.

Calls to increase SRD grant

Although recipients and civil society groups welcomed Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s announcement that the SRD grant would be extended, organisations such as Cosatu, PayTheGrants and Black Sash continue their call for the R350 to be increased to either the monthly food poverty line of R760 or the upper-bound poverty line of R1,183.

Black Sash has urged government to address the challenges faced by those impacted by poverty.

In a statement, the non-profit organisation wrote, “We implore the [finance] minister and his portfolio to understand that these South Africans cannot wait any longer for the government’s plans to materialise. The situation for millions of South Africans has become life-threatening.

“Therefore, the Minister of Finance and Treasury must prioritise the welfare of communities and people faced with poverty who live hand to mouth. Black Sash anticipated hearing the following in Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s budget speech:

  • An increase to ALL social grants aligned with the inflation rate.
  • An inflation equivalent increase and permanent SRD grant for the unemployed aged 18-59.
  • The Child Support Grant increased to the Food Poverty Line of R760.
  • A well-administered, transparent, efficient and effective grant payment system managed by Sassa.

“The Budget failed to speak to the majority in South Africa who are unemployed and hungry, and it failed to consider the constitutional obligations to ensure that the rights in the Bill of Rights are upheld and resourced,” said Black Sash.

“As the president affirmed in Sona, the Constitution must stand at the centre of the government’s work to build a better life for all. Minister Godongwana failed to prioritise the fulfilment of basic rights.”

Cosatu General Secretary Solly Phetoe echoed these sentiments, saying that although the trade union federation appreciates the fiscal challenge of increasing the grants, such a move is possible.

“Cosatu hopes that the very positive commitment by [President Cyril] Ramaphosa to extend and increase the SRD grant in the recent State of the Nation Address will be honoured… and, at the minimum, to adjust it for inflation.”

Work in progress

Ramaphosa and the finance minister’s responses to these calls have mostly been that it is a work in progress.

The Social Relief of Distress Grant was allocated R33.6-billion in 2024/25, with provisional allocations for 2025/26 and 2026/27.

“Work is currently under way to improve the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant by April this year. The National Treasury will work with the Department of Social Development in ensuring that improvements in this grant are captured in the final regulations,” Godongwana said in his budget speech last week.

“These improvements will be within the current fiscal framework. For the extension of the grant beyond March 2025, the social security policy reforms, together with the funding source, will be finalised.”

A Black Sash documentary series highlights the lived reality of many in South Africa who struggle to survive.

“The docu-series highlights the importance of supporting the call for Basic Income Support. The purpose of these stories is to get a glimpse of the struggles of many who live in South Africa.

“The series provides a platform for the most vulnerable in our society to use their voices to tell those living in South Africa about their lived reality and their daily struggle to survive.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • M E says:

    The problem is not the grant, but the reliance on it. Create jobs so the recipients have an income. Do away with clearly bad policies that stammer growth and increase unemployment. Until SA has a fair job market policy in place, more and more people will become unemployed and the system where only 7 million of 60 million pay taxes. It’s ridiculously unsustainable.

  • T'Plana Hath says:

    I’d be interested to know why there is a loaf of brown bread 𝘢𝘯𝘥 flour and yeast on the list. There’s no eggs or butter, so it can’t be a “Let them eat brioche”-type scenario …
    I’m just curious – since COVID, I bake my own bread in the airfryer, and it is 𝘸𝘢𝘢𝘢𝘺 more economical than buying loaves and freezing them. Whip up 200g of dough in the morning before work, pop it in the fryer to rise, and then press play when you get home in the evening – makes the flat smell great!
    Also, 2kg of refined white sugar? That’s like ~60 grams a day, that can’t possibly be healthy. Shitcan the sugar and double the pap – make sure it is fortified with vitamins and minerals (I think most paps are these days).

    • M E says:

      I hear you T’Plana, but I suspect it’s because most people don’t have ovens at their disposal,let alone air fryers. I do agree some of these items are strange, I’d have likely included some sort of soya product (superfood), along with veggie mix. But this is what DM deemed suitable for their basket. Economists’ baskets differ.

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