South Africans are paying over R500 more for food than a year ago

A year ago the average cost of the household food basket, comprising 44 basic items, was R500 less than today.

The latest Household Affordability Index, compiled by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD), shows South Africans are paying nearly 13% more for food compared with this time last year.

The index tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Springbok in the Northern Cape.

Released on Wednesday, the index shows the average cost of the basket increased by R534.47 (12.6%) from R4,241.11 in August 2021 to R4,775.59 in August 2022.

“We are not yet seeing any significant climb down in prices, which would bring down the total cost of the household food basket in a substantial way and alleviate pressures on households. With no climb down in sight, higher taxi fares and, for many prepaid users, high tariff increases well beyond the regulated 7.47%, women are struggling,” said PMBEJD’s Mervyn Abrahams.

“The high cost of food remains a major crisis for millions of South African families and continues to frustrate people’s need to … afford proper nutritious food, be healthy and well, and in control of their future.”

Women are expressing concern about their safety and crime levels.

“This month, we are hearing women saying they feel the streets are becoming markedly more unsafe. More people are getting robbed. There is a feeling that more people are in trouble and desperate, and willing to steal to survive.”

Abrahams said progress in addressing the jobs crisis is too slow, adding that for the employed, salaries are being decimated by higher transport, electricity and food costs.

The August 2022 cost of a basic nutritional food basket for a family of four is R3,212.

In July, municipalities increased the price of prepaid electricity on average by 7.47%.

“In Pietermaritzburg, 350kWh of prepaid electricity increased by R56, from R731.50 to R787.50 (from R2.09/kWh to R2.25/kWh). However, indications are that annual prepaid electricity tariff increases have risen well beyond 7.47%.

“In August 2022 PMBEJD calculates that workers’ families will underspend on food by a minimum of 46.8% (having a maximum of R1,709.94 left after transport and electricity, and with food costing R3,212.97).”

Abrahams said year-on-year, the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet increased by nearly 10%.

“In August 2022 the child support grant of R480 is 23% below the food poverty line of R624, and 41% below the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet (R820.26).”

“Women sacrifice their own nutritional needs so their children can eat better. The strain of having to constantly find means in seemingly impossible situations to care for children and keep homes functioning is physically and mentally exhausting. There is no respite from this stress and anxiety.”


South Africans who are struggling to keep their heads above water are forking out more for a basic food basket than they did last year.
Image: Khaya Ngwenya


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