Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Inflation stays at 5.2% in May

Inflation remained sticky in May and despite load shedding seeming to be a thing of the past, the inflation rate stays above 5%.

Annual consumer price inflation was 5.2% in May, unchanged from April, with a monthly change in the consumer price index (CPI) of 0,2%.

In addition, annual rates for four of the twelve product groups remained steady between April and May, including food and non-alcoholic beverages (NAB).

Statistics SA announced the inflation rate for May on Tuesday, saying that higher rates were recorded for transport, alcoholic beverages and tobacco as well as recreation and culture.

On the other hand, inflation was softer for miscellaneous goods and services, communication, clothing and footwear, health and restaurants and hotels.

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Food inflation gets stuck

After five consecutive months of decline, food and non-alcoholic beverages inflation remained steady at 4,7% in May, also unchanged from April. Bread and cereals continued to trend downward, slowing further to 3,9%, the lowest annual reading for bread and cereals since February 2022 when it was 3,7%.

Statistics SA says nine of the twenty bread and cereal products in the inflation basket are cheaper than a year ago. Rusks, hot cereals, pasta and savoury biscuits registered the largest price decreases. However, inflation remains notably hot for rice, pizza and pies, sweet biscuits, cakes and tarts and bread rolls.

Inflation for milk, eggs and cheese also moderated for a fifth consecutive month on the back of slower price increases for cheese, selected milk products and eggs. The annual rate for eggs remains elevated at 21.0% but is softer than April’s 25.1%.

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A cup of coffee also more expensive

The downward trend in inflation for sugar, sweets and desserts also continued with lower rates for sugar, jam, chocolate and ice cream. Although sugar inflation cooled in May, annual increases for white sugar (18.8%) and brown sugar (15.8%) remain in double-digit territory.

There was also an uptick in inflation for hot beverages, oils and fats, fish, fruit, vegetables and meat in May, Statistics SA says. Hot beverages quickened from 11.4% in April to 14.2% in May, the highest since January 2023, when it was 16.4%.

Inflation for instant coffee, ground coffee or coffee beans and black tea is above 10%, with instant coffee prices increasing by an annual 17.9%, up from 13.8% in April.

Statistics SA says digging a little deeper into the data shows that the average price for instant coffee (250 g) was 82% higher in May 2024 than in January 2017 when it started publishing average prices.

Many coffee drinkers enjoy sugar and milk in their favourite brew and their prices also increased over the same period, although not as sharply as the price of coffee.

With winter chills currently setting it was also notable that the price of cold and flu medication witnessed an annual increase of 11.1%.

Other health-related products that recorded relatively large increases include eyedrops (up 15.9%), laxatives (up 11.3%), cough syrup (up 8.1%) and vitamins (up 7.1%).

Despite these increases, overall inflation for health products cooled from 7.7% in April to 5.8% in May.

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Other notable price changes in May

Transport increased to 6.3% from 5,7% in April, the highest rate for the category since October 2023, when it was 7,4%. Fuel was of course the major culprit, with petrol and diesel prices increasing on average by 9.3% over the last 12 months and by 0.6% since April 2024.

The index for restaurants and hotels increased by an annual rate of 6.5%. Hotel prices were up by 8.0% over the same period, with hotels in Gauteng, the Free State and Limpopo registering increases higher than 10%.

Statistics SA says the miscellaneous goods and services category recorded an annual rate of 7.1%, slightly softer than 7.2% in April.

Personal care products recorded a fifth consecutive month of disinflation, slowing to 7.0% in May from a recent high of 10.3% in December 2023.

Personal care products with the highest inflation rates in May were baby powder (up 18.4%), shampoo (up 16.6%), toothbrushes (up 16.5%) and toothpaste (up 16,.%).

This graph shows food and beverage products that recorded the most significant annual and monthly price increases in May:

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