Maverick Citizen

Food Justice

FOOD BASKET CHECK

SRD grant recipients relish the moderate foodstuff price relief as inflation eases

SRD grant recipients relish the moderate foodstuff price relief as inflation eases
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)

While the decline in prices may mean SRD grant recipients can add a packet of beans to their basket, activists are protesting against the meagre R20 increase recently announced by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.

Daily Maverick has been tracking the prices of 14 basic food items a consumer can buy with the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant. From April, the grant increases to R370.

According to the latest Stats SA inflation index, inflation for food slowed to 6.1% in February. 

Most categories recorded lower annual rates, except for hot beverages, and oils and fats. The rate for hot beverages was driven higher by annual price increases for instant coffee (up 12.1%), black tea (up 10.1%) and Rooibos tea (up 8.1%).

“The rate for oils and fats remained in negative territory, mainly due to a 12.9% annual decline in the price of sunflower oil. However, the fall in prices did not extend to peanut butter, which has increased in price by 14% since February 2023. 

“The lingering impact of rising egg prices continues to affect the milk, eggs and cheese category, with eggs 30.7% more expensive than a year ago. Although the current average price of a tray of six eggs (R25.48) is down from its peak in December 2023 (R25.85), it is higher than the February 2023 price tag (R21.13).”

Annual rice inflation increased further to 25% in February from 23.8% in January. A bag of rice (1kg) would have set you back R31.83 in February, sharply up from R23.54 a year ago. 

Pizza and pies – also classified with rice in the bread and cereals category – have seen sharp price increases too, rising by 17.5% in the 12 months to February.

However, not all was bad news in the bread and cereals category. Several products are cheaper than a year ago, including bread flour (down 5.7%), rusks (down 2.7%), ready-mix flour (down 2.2%), pasta (down 2.1%) and macaroni (down 0.5%).

The impact of the slowed food inflation is reflected in the March 2024 Household Food Index, which shows a 0.0% increase from February to March in their food basket of 44 basic food products. 

Key data from the March 2024 Household Affordability Index show that the average cost of the Household Food Basket is R5,277.93. 

“March price data shows a marginal increase in the total cost of the average household food basket. Twenty-eight foods increased and 16 foods decreased in March. All baskets fluctuate quite unpredictably in March.

“The average cost of the Household Food Basket increased by R0.63 (0.0%), from R5,277.30 in February 2024 to R5,277.93 in March 2024. The average cost of the Household Food Basket increased by R311.72 (6.3%), from R4,966.20 in March 2023 to R5,277.93 in March 2024,” the report reads.

While the decline in prices may mean SRD grant recipients can add a packet of beans to their basket, activists are protesting the R20 increase recently announced by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.

Elizabeth Raiters said on behalf of PayTheGrants that “the announcement by the Minister of Finance of an increase of a meagre R20 per month from 1 April smacks of a disconnect with the food precarity millions face, and amounts to empty political opportunism. 

“This is neither an improvement nor an expansion as current and draft regulations are and will prevent at least 7 million people every month from receiving the grant.” 

A coalition of non-profit organisations issued a statement in mid-March: “The newly announced R20 increase is not enough to reverse four years of zero inflationary increases, nor is it sufficient to cover even the minimum energy intake for an individual, which was costed by Stats SA at R760 per month for 2023. 

“The current amount of R350 has not been adjusted to keep pace with inflation since the introduction of the grant in 2020. 

“If the grant is increased to be in line with rising prices alone, then the value in 2024 should be between R440 and R467 based on food inflation. This would merely mean a stabilisation of its 2020 value, without any real increase. So this, at minimum, requires an increase of R90. 

“Any increase which fails to meet this threshold would be regressive. This is contrary to the Minister of Finance’s acknowledgement that ‘we are sensitive to the increase in the cost of living’.

“Even with the R20 increase, recipients are R70 poorer than they were in 2020 because the cost of living is not being factored in.” DM

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