Food prices surge 10.2% in October, new survey shows

South African food prices have continued to surge with double digit price increases recorded on the back of spiralling electricity costs in October a local consumer advocacy group has warned.

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The Pietermartizburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group’s latest October 2021 Household Affordability Index and Report showed that the cost of a basic household food basket increased by R98,08 (2,3%) month-on-month, and R400,83 (10,2%) year-on-year. 

In October 2021, the average Household Food Basket costs R4 317,56. 

“The rise in food prices in October is in line with our predictions and are set to continue into 2022. The massive electricity tariff hike of around 14,59% effected in June and July 2021, had to result in price hikes of goods and services down the line,” PMBEJDG said.

“These increases are now reflecting in higher food prices on supermarket shelves. October further typically sees higher vegetable prices – specifically potatoes, butternut, and tomatoes – due to seasonal changes. Potatoes, for example have been harvested in the Free State and Limpopo (which has had unfavourable weather conditions that resulted in lower yields), and the next crop in KZN will be ready from December,” the group said.

“We are also seeing some anomalies in food prices across areas, with a spike in maize meal prices in parts of Joburg and Cape Town (although South Africa has a bumper maize crop this year), including higher milk, amasi and egg prices, higher poultry and meat prices, and bread prices in some areas. Cape Town saw a surge in prices this month of R174,49 (4,2%) month-on-month. Cape Town prices have tended to be moderate over the past year, October has seen a shift which brings the total cost of the basket (R4 280,67) more in line with Joburg (R4 305,69) and Durban (R4 327,06) prices,” the group said.

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PMBEJDG said that rising food prices were likely to continue into 2022 and would put “severe pressure” on households whose incomes remain low through low baseline wages and low-level social grants, while jobs remain elusive. 

|Monthly food expenses take up a large portion of income. Higher food prices, together with higher electricity prices and taxi fare hikes, are putting enormous pressure on the household purse and the family plate. The cost of the household food basket is very high and families can’t afford it. We remain in an emergency food crisis, and this crisis is set to deepen. Our problem is not only that we are going hungry but what is on our plate when there is food,” the PMBEJDG said.

“The higher cost of foods has emptied out the trollies of any nutritional diversity. Women tell us that ‘whatever we have got; we eat, it doesn’t matter anymore as long as we can eat it.’ White starches, and sugar, and salt and oil fill our plates – but in time, our children’s bellies cry out for good quality meat protein, sugar beans, and dairy and eggs, calcium, vegetables and fruits, and vitamins, minerals, and fibre,” the group said.

PMBEJDG warned that the country would pay a high price for not making proper nutritious food for children a key political priority. 

“Projections for the next several months, based on past data, and current factors suggest food prices will rise through to 2022. The higher electricity tariffs, including the additional costs of sourcing back up supplies amid loadshedding, load reduction and black outs, will increase the cost of production, transport, and storage.  The forthcoming fuel price increases in November will run through the value chains making agricultural production and transport more expensive,” the group added.

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