Editor's note

A mushroom, my kingdom for a mushroom!

I was quite shocked the other day, when I brought a cucumber at a price of almost R10.

Seriously? After all, here we are dealing with a fruit that sprouts up from a creeping vine that roots in the ground. And for this fruit, which, by the way, doesn’t taste like much, you have to pay an exorbitant fee.

You can’t but wonder what has happened to our Rainbow Nation of promise and opportunity. It seems it is choking on its ego.

Maybe I should take comfort in the fact that apparently cucumbers are the fourth most cultivated vegetable in the world and known to be one of the best foods for your body’s overall health.

Well, this may be a superfood, but it still costs R10!

Madness, I cried.

I briefly thought of China which produces most of the cucumbers in the world — they must be smiling all the way to the bank. They probably knew this was going to happen!

With my heart in mouth, suffering from shock and a sudden bout of depression, I shambled along to find some mushrooms.

Now, let us keep in mind a mushroom (or toadstool) is a fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil, or on its food source.

For this “fungus” – and we must stress the word fungus and the fact that it grows basically anywhere – you pay more than R15 for a packet these days.

Years ago, a man would fall on his knees and cry out to heaven in blissful exaltation when he found gold lodged in a stream, or when he struck oil in a barren land.

Now, I would fall on my knees and bless the heavens if I found a patch of fungus or a creeping vine of cucumbers!

They sure are a recipe for wealth.

Some may wonder what I am blabbering on about, but we are talking about skyrocketing food prices, which are crippling our nation.

If one thinks it is dangerous to climb into a space shuttle, try shopping for a month’s groceries. It’s enough to ensure endless nightmares.

This year, a study was done by a national newspaper, which showed how food prices have increased over five years.

The survey included taking seven basic items and comparing the cost from January 2008 to April 2013.

And the result? An increase of an accumulative 49 per cent.

These items included bread, meat, milk, cheese, vegetables, sugar and cooking oil, among others.

Where consumers had to pay around R189 for these products in January, 2008, they now have to fork out R283 for the same items.

Other items that were compared, included luxury or “sin” goods, like chocolates, coffee, beer, wine and cigarettes, which also showed an accumulative 49 per cent increase in the review period.

The price of bread alone skyrocketed by 69 per cent in this period.

And then, of course, there is more bad news.

Economists and consumer bodies are warning that inflation, now at just under six per cent, will rise to nine per cent by the end of the year, blaming a weaker Rand, high electricity and fuel prices, increased labour costs, droughts and international food price hikes.

Why don’t we just add tornadoes and crazy government spending to this list while we are finding reasons as to why food has become a very expensive commodity?

Wait, there is more gloom. The Transvaal Agricultural Union recently reportedly said the petrol price hike could affect food security in the country.

Apart from the fuel price rise, Eskom’s electricity price increase, along with the farm workers’ minimum wage increase and pending e-tolling in Gauteng was putting huge pressure on farmers.

Talking about food security, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson (hopefully still the same minister after the recent cabinet reshuffle!), in 2012, said more needed to be done to curtail soaring food prices, for the country to improve food security at household level.

She spoke during the commemoration of World Food Day, saying food security was a challenge for a number of households across various sectors of the population, more so in rural settings.

She emphasised that food security and reasonable food prices played a big role in maintaining a stable, democratic state and appealed to South Africans to go back to basics, to counter the challenge of rising food prices by reverting to gardening.

Now, what was funny, is that she urged families to have vegetable gardens.

Really? So in between dodging criminals and wondering when Eskom will switch off the power, we now have to become farmers, because the government is failing to provide for its people.

Well, isn’t that just great. And so, while we pay an arm and a leg for our fuel and our food, naturally, salaries grow at a far more tragic rate.

We also sit with the scary scenario of an ever weakening Rand, which means that foods such as grain and red meat – staple foods for many middle class households – are expected to increase.

Not a rosy picture at all.

But what can one do? One needs to eat.

It seems that if you want to survive in this country, then, ultimately, you have to cultivate some cucumbers and mushrooms in your back garden (surrounded by high fences, security lights and vicious dogs as protection).

Trust me, you will make a killing, or shall I say, we might start a fungus war of nutrition!

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