Shoprite CEO Whitey Basson says that retailers should not use the current drought hitting South Africa as an excuse to unnecessarily raise prices.
Official food price inflation hit 9.5% in March, however many consumers and consumer groups have raised concern over food prices which have been rising by well over that marker.
Artificial price increases are nothing new, with the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign and the Consumer Action Network recently accusing food manufacturers and retailers of artificially inflating the price of bread in the country.
According to the groups, food manufacturers are using the drought and subsequent imports of wheat to raise the price of bread – despite farmer association, Grain SA, saying that the price should not be affected by these things.
Over the past year, the price of bread across several brands has increased by 7% – but Grain SA noted that there was no price decrease when international wheat prices were lower.
Data from Stats SA showed that the year on year price increases for food were as follows:
- Vegetables – 18.7%
- Fruit – 18.7%
- Oils and fats – 18.1%
- Bread and cereals – 13.3%
- Sugar and desserts – 11.7%
- Fish – 6.4%
- Meat – 6.1%
- Dairy – 3.6%
According to Basson, consumers need to be wary of price hikes and look for alternatives to stay within their budgets.
The executive noted that while beef prices had hiked by over 15%, pork products had actually decreased by 4% and should be used as an alternative source of protein.
Similarly, frozen vegetable prices had only increased by 2% compared to some fresh vegetable prices, which ballooned by as much as 60% due to the drought.
On the point of bread, the CEO said that Shoprite had locked its store brown bread at R4.99 – a lower price than one year ago – to alleviate the burden of rising prices.
He said the reduced price – on bread and other products – would be maintained for an extended period to cushion the blow of inflation.