Here’s how the average price for a household food basket has increased in South Africa

 ·23 May 2020

Stats SA and the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group have both published data showing the price changes for essential goods during the coronavirus lockdown in South Africa.

The stats body is actively tracking prices during lockdown, with the group’s data showing that prices decreased by 0.5% during the Covid‑19 level 4 lockdown in April.

The index increased in the first week of April, but then dropped in each of the three successive weeks, it said.

Stats SA noted that all food categories ended the month in deflationary territory except for milk, eggs and cheese; oils and fats; and ‘other’ foods.

There was substantial variation between different meat products, with beef generally increasing and chicken and pork generally decreasing. Beef mince prices increased by 7.2% and prices for frozen chicken portions decreased by 5.3%.

The below graphic shows the weekly price increases as well as the price increases since the lockdown began.

The most notable price changes include:

  • Bread and cereal prices decreased by 0,6% in the last week of the month to show a -0.5% change over the four weeks. Products showing the largest four-week change were rice (-4%) and cake flour (6.8%). South Africa’s main staple, mielie meal, ended the month with prices 0.1% lower than the end of March;
  • Milk, eggs and cheese products showed price increases of 0.2% in the last week and 2.8% over the month. The monthly increase was mainly due to a large increase in the price of eggs (19.8%) (almost all in the first week) and of cheese spread (6.8%). Cheddar cheese prices increased by 3.9% in the last week but decreased by 0.8% over the month;
  • Oils and fats increased by 1.2% over April. Margarine spread decreased by 4.9% but cooking oil increased by 5.4%;
  • Fruit and vegetable prices ended the month lower by 3.2% and 4,6% respectively. Prices for sugar, sweets and desserts declined by 1.2% in the most recent week and by 1,9% over April. White and brown sugar prices declined by 1% and 5% respectively over the four weeks;
  • Decreases in the prices for baby milk formula (‑5.1%) and baby cereal (‑6%) resulted in a weekly drop in the index for ‘other’ foods of 1.8%. This index ended April 0.4% higher than the last week of March;
  • Non-alcoholic beverage prices decreased by 0.5% in the week ending 30 April and by 0.3% over the whole month. Canned fizzy drinks increased by 5% and black tea by 4.6% during the month; prices of bottled fizzy drinks and rooibos tea decreased by 2.7% and 1.6% respectively;
  • There was an average price increase of 1.1% in household maintenance product groups (mainly detergents) during April. Dishwashing liquid (5.4%) and toilet cleaner (4.1%) prices showed significant upward movement.

Cost of a basket of food 

While StatsSA’s data shows that there have not been major price increases when looking at broad categories of food, consumers are still be paying more when looking at the average household food basket, the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD) said.

The group collected food prices in Pietermaritzburg supermarkets which target the low-income market on 23 April. It then compared these prices to prices collected from before the lockdown started (2 March).

The group found that over the first three weeks of the lockdown (2 April – 23 April), the cost of the household food basket increased by R65,67 (1.9%) to R3,473.75.

When compared to prices before the lockdown started (2 March – 23 April), the cost of the household food basket increased by R252.75 (7.8%) from R3,221 to R3,473.75.

The PMBEJD said that the foods driving increases in the household food basket are all foods which are essential staple foods:

  • Rice – 12%
  • Cabbage – 10%
  • Cooking oil – 9%
  • Sugar beans – 8%
  • Cake flour -4%
  • White sugar – 4%
  • Onions – 5%
  • Eggs – 4%

The below table shows the tracked price increases in more detail:

More South Africans going hungry 

A separate report published by StatSA shows that more South Africans are also going hungry during lockdown.

The report is based on data collected from a series of web-surveys conducted between 29 April and 6 May 2020, with 2,688 respondents surveyed in total.

While the survey results are not representative of the entire South African population, they are indicative of the types of challenges facing South Africans during these unprecedented times, the stats body said.

StatsSA said that the proportion of respondents who reported experiencing hunger since the start of lockdown increased from 4.3% to 7%.

“Based on the General Household Survey (GHS) data, we know that hunger in the country is notably higher than as measured in the Wave 2 survey results which reflects the possible selection bias in Wave 2 respondents.

“Nevertheless, the reported increase in hunger amongst respondents is indicative of the risk of greater food insecurity in the country as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.

Stats SA said that the percentage of respondents who reported receiving no income increased from 5.2% before the lockdown to 15.4% by the sixth week of the national lockdown.

The majority of respondents reported salaries/wages as their primary source of income before and during the national lockdown. However, this percentage decreased from 76.6% before the national lockdown to 66.7% by the sixth week of national lockdown.

“When examining the subset of respondents who reported that their income has decreased since the start of the national lockdown, we actually find higher levels of hunger with roughly 11.4% of those respondents (roughly one out of every ten) reporting that they have experienced hunger during the lockdown,” Stats SA said.

Read: The rules around returns and refunds during South Africa’s lockdown

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