Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Food basket price LATEST: Cost down, but not enough…

The food basket includes the foods and monthly volumes for a family of seven members, an average low-income household size,

The monthly food basket price has decreased somewhat, but it is not enough for low-income consumers who must still pay elevated prices for core staple foods that cost R34,82 more than the month before and R237,87 more than a year ago.

According to the Household Affordability Index of the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, the average cost of the Household Food Basket was R5 056,45 in June, a decrease of R15,14 (-0,3%), from R5 071,59 in May. However, the price of the basket increased by R367,65 (7,8%), from R4 688,81 in June 2022. 

The index tracks food price data from 47 supermarkets and 32 butcheries, in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Mtubatuba in Northern KwaZulu-Natal and Springbok in the Northern Cape that target the low-income market and where women shop at in the areas where they live.

Food prices that increased by 5% or more, include rice (9%), onions (13%), inyama yangaphakathi (5%; while the prices of white sugar (2%), sugar beans (2%), potatoes (3%), fish (2%), tinned pilchards (3%) and canned beans (4%) increased by 2% or more. 

There was some good news for low-income consumers with a few prices that decreased.

Maize meal cost 3% less, while some meats, milk, amasi, eggs, fruit and all vegetables decreased except for onions and potatoes.

ALSO READ: Poor consumers must cut more nutritious food as prices keep rising

Slight decrease, but not enough

Although the overall food basket cost slightly less in June, the group warns that foods that make up the core staples and which are prioritised first in the purse, remained stubbornly high.

The prices of these foods must decrease before households experience some relief at the till, as these items make up the core of the household meals and is still expensive relative to most low incomes.

In June the food basket price decreased in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Springbok, while the price increased in Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Mtubatuba. 

The Johannesburg basket decreased by R31,94 compared to May, but increased by R283,78 compared to June 2022, while the Durban basket increased by R35,35 compared to May and increased by R293,16 compared to last year.

The Cape Town basket decreased by R40,53 compared to May and increased by R493,62 compared to June 2022 and the Springbok basket decreased by R95,17 compared to May and increased by R349,84 compared to June 2022.

The price of the Pietermaritzburg basket increased by R4,06 compared to May and also increased by R343,52 compared to June 2022, the Mtubatuba basket increased by R49,00 compared to May and increased by R526,20 compared to June 2022.

These prices must be viewed against the backdrop of someone earning the National Minimum Wage of R25,42 an hour and R203.36 for an 8-hour day. In June 2023, with 21 working days, the maximum National Minimum Wage for a general worker was R4 270,56. 

Workers work to support their families and not only themselves. For black South African workers, one wage must typically support four people. Dispersed in a worker’s family of four people the wage is reduced to R1 067,64 per person, far below the upper-bound poverty line of R1 417 per person per month.

ALSO READ: Poor consumers must cut more nutritious food as prices keep rising

The basic nutritional food basket

In June the cost of a basic nutritional food basket for a family of four people was R3 505,56. Using Pietermaritzburg-based figures for electricity and transport and the average figure for a minimum nutritional basket of food for a family of four, the group calculates that electricity and transport will take up R2 299,50 of the worker’s wage of R4 270,56. 

The group says it must also be remembered that low-income consumers only buy food after paying for transport and electricity, leaving only R1 971,06 for food and everything else. Therefore, the group calculates that workers’ families underspent on food by a minimum of 43,8%. In this scenario there is no possibility of a worker being able to afford enough nutritious food for her family.   

If the entire R1 971,06 is used to buy food it works out at R492,76 per person per month, again far below the food poverty line of R663. 

The scenario is even worse for children in low-income households. In June the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet was R893,78. Although this amount decreased by R7,41 compared to May, the annual cost increased by R80,49. With a Child Support Grant of R500 that is 25% below the Food Poverty Line of R663 and 44% below the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet, it is clear how low-income families go hungry.   

Domestic and personal hygiene products also cost R9,62 more than in May and R115,21 more than a year ago. The total average cost of basic household domestic and personal hygiene products was R954,96 in June 2023.

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