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More families cut down on their grocery list

As much as Stats SA reported a decrease in food inflation in a statement published on their website on May 16, residents in the high unemployment-stricken township struggle to fill their food cupboards.

The high cost of living has compromised the monthly food budget of many families in SA, leading to a drastic cut in people’s food baskets.

According to Stats SA, consumer inflation was at its lowest in two years when the annual consumer inflation slumped to 4.7% in July from 5.4% in June.

This was described as the lowest reading since July 2021, when the rate was 4.6%.

The report on Stats SA’s website suggested food inflation, including bread, cereals and meat, inflation had eased.
“The annual rate for the food and non-alcoholic beverages category was 9.9% in July, lower than June’s print of 11.0%. Annual inflation for bread and cereals slowed to 13.1% from 15.5% in June.

“Maize meal, an important staple, was cheaper in July compared to June, with prices falling on average by 0.7%. Annual meat inflation declined for a fifth consecutive month, easing to 5.1%,” stated the report.

However, consumers still feel the pinch, and contributing factors are the July 2021 unrest and high unemployment.

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey indicated the number of employed persons increased by 258 000 to 16.2m in the first quarter of this year compared to the fourth quarter of last year.

The number of unemployed persons increased by 179 000 to 7.9m during the fourth quarter of last year.

These changes resulted in the official unemployment rate increasing by 0.2 of a percentage point from 32.7% in the fourth quarter of last year to 32.9% in the first quarter of this year.

Vosloorus resident Lilian Dludlu (82), from the Dindela Section, said things were bad enough before the pandemic but after that difficult period, South Africans saw high unemployment coupled with inflation, which saw food prices skyrocket.

She said as a pensioner depending on grant money, she could not afford food that could last her family of 10, including her grandchildren.

“I usually spend R700 on groceries, back then that would be enough to get us through the month. However, in the past couple of years, the grocery list has gotten shorter,” said Dludle.

She said they no longer got the same value for the money because the items were less and the packaging more diminutive.

“For example, previously when you bought a sack of maize meal it would be full, but today it is either a quarter full or half, but you pay a lot more for it compared to back when it was full and affordable,” she said.

Another pensioner, Anna Mokoena (74), said she spent most of her grant on food and her three children to help them search for job opportunities as they travel to drop off CVs in various companies without any luck.

Vosloorus resident Anna Mokoena (74).

“We buy essential basics like maize meal, sugar, tea bags, cooking oil, a sack of potatoes and onions. We had to cut down on meat because it was expensive. Most of us are in survival mode.

“The most important thing is to go to bed with something in your stomach. Our children cannot take us out of this situation because they are unemployed and hopeless, they have been job hunting for years,” said Mokoena.

Winile Ntsele (35) from Vosloorus told Kathorus MAIL she was unemployed and there was no stable income because only one person often got part-time jobs.

She said they lived with three children – a 12-year-old boy and two girls aged 17 and three. They spend at least R2 500 on monthly groceries but it is not enough to last them for a month.

“It is very difficult because we are unemployed and resort to using the children’s grant to patch other things. We end up having challenges because, at times, we are unable to provide basic needs for our children,” said Ntsele.

Ncamisile Mkhonzo (49) said food was unaffordable and she could not budget for it because she was unemployed.

She said she lived with her child and her unemployed partner, who did piece jobs.

“We survive on a hand-to-mouth basis. I prioritise maize meal, sager, cooking oil and washing and bathing soap but they are expensive,” said Mkhonzo.

She said she now spends more money on food compared to previous years.

“When you had R500 you could buy groceries that could last for almost a month but now midway through the month the cupboards are empty, and you have to buy more food.

“I do not remember the last time I had an entire piece of meat. Now we take one piece and make stew, so there is a bit of meat on the plate. When we run out of food we turn to our food garden. I planted spinach, onions and carrots.”

Mkhonzo advised other residents to consider having food gardens at their homes because the seeds were affordable and maintaining a garden was not a lot of work.

Katiso Zwane from Basothong Section is a street vendor selling fruits and vegetables on the corner of Moagi Road and Mc Botha Drive near Naledi Mall.

Katiso Zwane, from Basothong Section, packs his stock to attract customers on the corner of Moagi Road and Mc Botha Drive, near Naledi Mall.

He said much had changed after lockdown. He used to stock a sack of potatoes for R30 but now the same sack goes for R96 or more.

“My customers always complain but there is nothing I can do because these are the prices we get at the market. I try my best to explain to my customers but we do not always get each other.

“Sometimes I would refer others to the shopping centre but eventually, they return to me because shopping centres are more expensive. Customers pay for the brand, packaging and plastic,” said Zwane.

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