The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group (PMBEJD) has published its September report on South Africa’s poverty lines, showing how the prices of core foods differ across the country’s major cities.
The comparison tracks 17 core foods found in the shopping baskets of low-income households in South Africa, taken from the shelves of 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries in Joburg, Cape Town and Durban. Stores in the Northern Cape and Pietermaritzburg were also tracked.
The data shows that the average cost of the household food basket in September 2021 was R4,219.48. This is up by R361.14 (9.4%), from R3,856.34 a year ago (September 2020).
This total basket is well beyond the affordability thresholds of families living on low incomes, the group said, noting that the National Minimum Wage for this same period was R3,643.92.
- The Pietermaritzburg (KZN) basket was R4,078.30
- The Durban (KZN) basket was R4,270.96
- The Joburg (GP) basket was R4,242.53
- The Cape Town (WC) basket was R4,106.18
- The Springbok (NC) basket was R4,595.13
While basket prices for Joburg, Durban and Pietermaritzburg declined slightly in September 2021, those in Cape Town and Springbok increased marginally, the PMBEJD said.
“On the average household food basket for all areas, marginal increases are shown on rice, samp, potatoes, chicken and beef offal, fish, butternut, spinach, pilchards, apples, oranges and polony.”
The group said that the cost of the core foods prioritised and bought first by a household remains a concern.
“Year-on-year, this basket of 17 foods, which should ordinarily be affordable and found in everyone’s home and which includes maise meal, rice, flour, sugar, sugar beans, oil, bread, onions, potatoes, chicken portions, salt, stock, soup, and tea, whilst declining slightly from August 2021 (by -0.6% or R14.08) is still relatively very high. In September 2021, this basket of core foods cost R2,278.90 and is R213.19 or 10.3% higher than it was a year ago.”
The PMBEJD also warned that South Africa’s high rate of unemployment and various grants are not keeping up with the rising cost of food.
“Over the past several years, we have seen how unemployment has continued to rise. At the same time, the inflation on basic goods and services have increased, making it harder for families to afford their basic needs.
“During this time, the real value of social grants has declined. The result is that food poverty amongst a very large portion of our population has increased. Every year our poverty indices get worse.”
The food poverty Line is a monetary instrument to measure the cost of a basket of food and whether people can afford it or not. Statistics South Africa updates its food poverty line annually in April of each year based on the Consumer Price Index’s Food Inflation figures.
In April 2021, food price inflation was 6,7%. The food poverty line now stands at R624 per month, a R39 (6.7%) adjustment, up from R585 in April 2020.
“With the new updated food poverty lines of R624 per capita per month, the Child Support Grant of R460 is now 26% below the food poverty line, and the SRD R350 grant is 44% below the food poverty line,” the group said.