A basic basket of groceries, containing 44 essential foods, now costs over R4 600. This is according to an advocacy organisation, the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group.
The group has just released the June 2022 Household Affordability Index, recording a 1.7% rise in prices of food for June from the previous month.
Now, as another hike in fuel prices looms, South Africans are feeling the pressure.
The Household Affordability Index tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries – in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, and Springbok in the Northern Cape.
The June 2022 data shows that the average basket of food is now R4 688,81. This is an increase of R78.92 from May and a staggering R560,57 from June last year.
“30kg of maize meal which has increased, year on year by 11%, 10kg of flour which is increased by about 24 %, 5l of cooking oil which has increased by a whopping 69 % over the past year, 10 kg of chicken pieces which has increased by about 14 %, 60 eggs having been increased by 14 % and brown bread having increased over the past year by close to 15 % in cost. We have also seen a lot of fluctuations in the cost of fresh produce. So, for instance, we are seeing the price of onions increase by 16% over the past year. The price of potatoes by 5% over the past year,” says Programme Coordinator for the Group Mervyn Abrahams.
In the video below, Abrahams says food is prioritised fourth in household budgets:
Consumers feeling the pressure
South Africans are buckling under the pressure. A Gauteng mother visiting Durban with family says recreation has to be kept to the minimum.
“We can’t survive, it is bad. The price of petrol and everything makes it just worse. There is no luxury for the children anymore. We have to count our pennies upside down. It is bad, it is ridiculous.”
Her husband is equally frustrated.
“We are paying almost R130 for a 2 litre of oil. I mean it’s ridiculous. You have to think twice before you fry something.”
Free State mother of two, Mpho Mashane, says the rise in food prices means having to leave out some items on the grocery list.
“Last month I did groceries. It cost normally R4000; you put in your normal basic stuff and meat on top. Last month with R4000, I couldn’t even say I can have pork, lamb, or whatever. It’s now a matter of; you now have to go for beef tin, rather than buying beef. You now have to go for the cheaper things, tin stuff, tin fish; those are the things that we now have to buy instead of buying your normal meat or whatever. So, when you check, instead of what your family is used to, you have to come to a point of eating meat once a week rather than every day.”
Another holidaymaker lamented the costs of travelling to the office daily, given the pressure consumers face.
“For me, just to travel from Alberton to Midrand, one tank costs me R1300, to fill the tank, and that takes me a week. Three to four tanks a month. I think we are working now to buy groceries and pay accounts, to fill petrol and that’s it. We have more month than money at the moment. It’s hard.”
Middle class impacted by food insecurity
According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group – food is bought after monies for transport and electricity have been paid for or set aside. The organisation estimates that in June, the average family would have under-spent on food by a minimum of 42.9%.
This is likely to further drive up malnutrition rates in the country. However, Abraham’s says, the rising cost of living is not just impacting on families below the breadline.
“The middle class now also because of increased costs of debt servicing, credit cards, bonds, and our car repayments have less money available to spend on food. So, we see that food insecurity is also beginning to impact massively on what we generally call in South Africa, the middle-class. And it is likely that if the current interest rates trajectory continues into the next year, that many households, currently in the middle-class will more than likely drop into the lower-income bracket.”
As more households face tighter budgets, Abraham says the impact is likely to reach beyond the family table.
“As we know that there is a direct correlation between household food security and social stability. And as household food security decreases – that increases the risk of social instability going forward.”