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2022-03-25

How food prices hit South Africans in the pocket as groceries sky rocket

That polony sandwich cost a lot more last month than it did in January, after the price of bread, margarine and other staple foodstuffs increased and hit consumers where it hurts – in their pockets.


Mwangi Githahu | IOL

Key data from the February 2022 Household Affordability Index, which tracks food price data across the country, shows that last month the average cost of the household food basket was R4 355.70.

It shows that year-on-year the cost of the Cape Town household food basket increased by R309.77 (8%) from R3 893.37 in February 2021 to R4 203.15 in February 2022.

Among the foods tracked were cooking oil, salt, onions, full cream milk, margarine, polony, tinned pilchards, sugar beans, chicken feet and gizzards as well as frozen chicken portions, all of which have risen in price.

The Index, which tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries, in Johannesburg, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Springbok and Cape Town, is published by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group.

At the same time, the latest data from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) shows that bread and cereal products have registered large monthly price increases.

Most affected are staples such as maize meal, which is up by 3.7% and white bread which shot up by 3.2% between January and February. In rand terms, a loaf of white bread was on average 69c more expensive in February than in January, up to R16.16 from R15.47.

The February 2022 CPI statistical release from Stats SA shows that after decreasing steadily for eight months, annual bread and cereals inflation jumped to 3.7% in February from 1.5% in January. This category includes grain-based foods made from wheat, rice and maize.

Stats SA said that the monthly change was also significant, representing the biggest monthly increase for this category since the beginning of 2019.

The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) has linked the price hikes to runaway fuel prices caused by the Russian/Ukraine war, and fuel prices are expected to hit R24 per litre in April as the war drags on.

Asking the government to intervene, Fedusa general secretary Riefdah Ajam said the price of sunflower oil was expected to rise from R59 per two litre bottle. “Food security remains a critical risk factor as imports of sunflower oil, as a key example, (are) from Russia.”

Agri SA have also called for government intervention saying fuel levies must be suspended to relieve pressure on food prices for South African consumers.

Spokesperson Kulani Siweya said Agri SA’s research and analysis has revealed that the Ukraine/Russia crisis will have a serious impact on South Africa’s food security.

The FairPlay movement, which represents the South African poultry industry, has meanwhile renewed its call for VAT in South Africa to be removed from most chicken portions to help counter the rise in food inflation following the conflict in Ukraine.

FairPlay founder Francois Baird said: “Chicken is the food product most consumed by lower-income households. That means that zero-rating chicken would directly target the poor, who are most affected by food price rises.”


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