Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
2 minute read
10 Sep 2021
4:03 pm

South Africans now need R624 per month to stave off hunger

Ina Opperman

How much do poor people need to spend on food per month, according to the food poverty line, without going hungry?

Picture: iStock

The food poverty line is now R624, the minimum amount of money a South African needs per month to afford food that supplies the minimum required daily energy intake of 8,820kJ, according to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA).

People who cannot afford to spend that much per month on food are officially living below this line and going hungry.   

Known as the “extreme poverty line”, this line does not include anything but food, while the lower-bound line of R890 includes an average amount for non-food items in households with a total expenditure that is equal to the food poverty line. The upper-bound poverty line is R1,335.

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Poverty lines

For the upper poverty line, the main assumption is that, in cases where food expenditure is equivalent to the food line, households are considered able to meet basic foods and basic non-food needs.

The lower-bound line is obtained based on the assumption that households whose total expenditure is close to the food poverty line live on “survival foods” and therefore sacrifice some basic food needs to meet their non-food requirements.

These lines are important because it enables statistical reporting of poverty levels and patterns that can be used to plan, monitor and evaluate poverty reduction programmes and policies, according to Stats SA.

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Calculating poverty lines

Stats SA started to calculate poverty lines in 2007 using the internationally recognised cost-of-basic-needs approach which links welfare to the consumption of goods and services and published the country’s official national poverty lines for the first time in 2012.

The national lines were not designed to be used for the determination of equitable share to provinces, setting the national minimum wage, determining eligibility thresholds or determining the amount to be paid for social grants, but it can help to inform and serve as a possible input into some of these processes to create pro-poor dimensions.

As the cost of goods and services, as well as household consumption patterns change, the lines are adjusted once every 5-to-10 years or when notable changes are observed in household consumption patterns.

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Food reference basket

A food reference basket containing 27 different food items is used to determine the poverty lines. This basket consists of:

  • Grain products: mealie meal, brown bread, white bread, rice and cake flour
  • Fish, meat and poultry: poultry including heads and feet, beef and veal, including heads and feet, boerewors, canned pilchards and polony
  • Fruit and vegetables: fresh cabbage, potatoes, fresh tomatoes and onions
  • Dairy products and eggs: fresh full cream milk, large eggs, long-life full cream milk and sour milk or maas
  • Oil and fats: edible oils such as cooking oil
  • Drinks: gassy cool drinks, fruit juice and instant coffee
  • Miscellaneous: burgers, soup powder, brown sugar and white sugar.