Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Hunger, malnutrition in SA on the rise as food prices go through the roof

The average cost of a basket of nutritious food meant to feed a family of seven has increased by 13% in the past year, and it's going to get worse.

Low-income consumers are being forced to remove nutritious foods from the plates of their families more often as food is simply becoming too expensive for many to buy.

According to the Household Affordability Index of the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD), various staples on the food shopping list of low-income consumers showed dramatic increases in price:

  • Cooking oil (5 litres): the price increased by 69% (+R27,04) from June 2021 when it cost R135,74, while it cost R228, 94 in June 2022, 13% or R27,04 more than in May when it cost R201,90.
  • Cake flour (10 kg): the price increased by 24% (+R22,21) from June 2021 when it cost R93,69, while it cost R115,90 in June 2022, 7% or R7,52 more than in May when it cost R108,37.
  • Samp (5 kg): the price increased by 18% (+R8,57) from June 2021 when it cost R46,72, while it cost R55,29 in June 2022, 3% or R1,78 more than in May when it cost R53,51.
  • Maize meal (30 kg): the price increased by 11% (+27,48) from June 2021 when it cost R241,40, while it cost R268,88 in June 2022, 4% or R9,34 more than in May when it cost R259,54.
  • Frozen chicken portions (10 kg): the price increased by 14% (+R47,02) from June 2021 when it cost R336,51, while it cost R383,53 in June 2022, almost the same as in May when it cost R381,66.

ALSO READ: Low-income South Africans forced to go hungry as food prices explode

Food prices in the basket

The Household Food Basket in the Household Affordability Index was designed with women living on low incomes in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Springbok and Pietermaritzburg and includes the foods and the volumes women living in a family of seven members try and secure each month.

The prices of 29 items in the food basket of 44 products in the basket increased in price over the past month:

  • In June 2022, the average cost of the basket was R4 688,81
  • The average cost of the basket increased by R78,92 (1,7%) from R4 609,89 in May 2022
  • The average cost of the basket increased by R560,57 (13,6%), from R4 128,23 in June 2021.

Other significant increases were for brown bread (5%), onions (6%), curry powder (6%), green peppers (10%), Cremora (5%), apricot jam (5%), white bread (4%), salt (4%), soup powder (3%), margarine (4%), cabbage (3%), maas (3%), chicken feet (3%), wors (4%), Inyama yangaphakathi (3%) and canned beans (3%).

ALSO READ: Low-income communities on verge of falling into extreme poverty

Staple food prices are a major concern

The PMBEJD says the escalation of food inflation on basic staple foods that households cannot absorb and one where no apparent relief is forthcoming, at least in the near-term, is a major concern.

“This situation raises three red flags of increased hunger, increased risk of social instability, and a general deterioration of health with short-term and long-term consequences. In July, public transport fares are set to increase, including school transport, while the annual electricity tariff hikes will also come into effect.”

The PMBEJD says all the local and global factors continue to drive up food prices. “Locally, the severe disruptions of our major transport routes, particularly between Gauteng and Durban, affected food transportation due to blockages, protests, bad roads, and accidents.” 

In addition, the group says, much higher commodity prices, production and logistical costs will continue to drive prices upwards and are likely to continue rising for the rest of 2022.

ALSO READ: Next month or two likely to see more price hikes

A frightening situation

“We have a situation whereby 50,1% of black South African workers are unemployed (11,3 million people on the expanded unemployment rate) and for those who are lucky enough to be employed, and where the National Minimum Wage is paid, this wage is still so little that workers who are mothers and fathers still have to remove nearly half of the food off their plates. Every day. It is untenable, intolerable, frightening.”


Comparing the food poverty line and the child support grant many of these women have to use to buy food the PMBEJD says the grant of R480 is 23% below the Food Poverty Line of R624 and 41% below the average cost of R813,29 to feed a child a basic nutritious diet.

“Every month, the gap between how much it really costs a mother to feed her child a proper nutritious diet and the support the state provides through the R480 child support grant widens.”  

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