Where you are paying more for food right now: Joburg vs Cape Town vs Durban

 ·12 Jul 2022

The latest food price data from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group (PMBEJD) shows that food prices continued to soar at the mid-year point in South Africa.

The group’s Household Affordability Index showed that of particular concern, is the impact of rising food and living costs on the country’s poorest. The maximum wage of R3,895 in June 2022 when disbursed in a black South African family of 4.3 persons is R906.03.  This is below the upper-bound poverty line of R1,335 per capita per month, said PMBEJD.

The minimum shortfall on food for a family is 42.9% in June 2022. After securing transport and electricity workers are left with R1,820.42. If all of this money went to food, then for a family of 4, it would provide R455.11 per person per month. The Food Poverty Line is R624, the group pointed out.

The table below calculates transport to work on 2 taxi fare, return (R16x4). The electricity charge is based on Msunduzi Municipality’s prepaid tariffs (R2,09 per kWh).

It provides scenarios for the NMW for General Workers at R23.19 an hour. The scenario provides for the maximum NMW for the maximum number of working days and hours; and for a 15-day working month and full 8 hours; and for a 15-day working month for 5 hours.

The group recorded its Household Food Basket at R4,688.81 in June 2022. Month-on-month, the average cost of the basket increased by R78.92 (+1.7%), from R4,609.89 in May 2022.

Year on year, the basket is up by R560.57 (+13.6%), from R4,128.33 in June 2021.

The year-on-year increase outstrips headline inflation by quite a big margin, and even food inflation tracked by Stats SA. Inflation was recorded at 6.5% in May 2022, up from 5.9% in April 2022 – the highest reading since January 2017.

Food inflation, meanwhile, was tracked at 7.8%.

Regional comparison

Regionally, the difference in cost of the total household food basket in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town is consistent at around ±R150.

Springbok and Pietermaritzburg tend to be outliers in the data (Springbok being the highest, and Pietermaritzburg being the lowest).

  • The Joburg basket increased by R122.65 (2.7%), and R532.85 (12.6%) year-on-year, to R4,749.16 in June 2022.
  • The Durban basket increased by R73.19 (1.6%) and R687.74 (16.8%) year-on-year, to R4,782.78 in June 2022.
  • The Cape Town basket increased by R46.32 (1.0%) and R470.81 (11.7%) year-on-year, to R4,490.84 in June 2022.
  • The Springbok basket increased by R119.09 (2.4%) and increased by R517.58 (11.4%) year-on-year, to R5 046.45 in June 2022.
  • The Maritzburg basket increased by R138.56 (3.1%) and R649.89 (16.4%) year-on-year, to R4,602.52 in June 2022.

Food prices are tracked directly by data collectors off the shelves of 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries that target the low-income market and which households identified as those they shop at in the areas where they live.

Consumer struggle

“With the escalating living costs and bills upon bills, one can understand why saving does not take priority when South Africans are fighting to survive. The biggest financial concern consumers currently have is that they cannot save for anything and the main reason is the high cost of living,” said Carla Oberholzer, debt advisor at debt counselling firm DebtSafe.

The group conducted a June 2022 survey of mostly 25 to 34-year-olds showing that income is not keeping up with various expenses for 21% of respondents. And for 27% of people who took part in the survey, the “biggest financial concern” they have is not being able to save for anything.

As many as 80% of respondents said they struggle to save because they have:

  • No money left after paying for their living costs and deductions.
  • Too many financial responsibilities.
  • Too much debt.

As many as 72% of participants blamed the rising living costs of food, fuel or travel for not being able to save at the end of the month. More than half (56%) of survey participants with debt highlight they are in arrears with their payments.

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