Food prices in South Africa are down – here’s what you are paying less for

Food prices in South Africa are coming down again, after climbing in excess of 8% during lockdown. However, costs are much higher than they were a year ago.

These are the findings from the latest Household Affordability Index, published by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD) for July 2020.

According to the group, prices for its tracked basket of food increased by 8.2% between March and June 2020, reflecting the price changes during lockdown. When comparing the price changes from June to July, however, the same basket is now 2.1% cheaper.

Compared to the same time in 2019, the basket is 11.6% more expensive.

The basket of food, which comprises the essential products and staples as identified by household shoppers in the Pietermaritzburg area, now costs R3,413.14, compared to R3,486.23 in June, and R3,221 in March.

What’s changed?

On month-to-month basis, prices have largely decreased, with only a few outliers gaining in price, such as potatoes (+6%), Margarine (+4%) and salt (+3%).

Conversely, several food items are seeing sizeable price drops:

  • Carrots –  33%
  • Onions –  30%
  • Bananas –  22%
  • Spinach – 20%
  • Wors –  11%
  • Stock cubes –  8%
  • Apples –  8%

Annually, food prices have largely increased far above inflation, with standouts being cabbage (+45%) and rice (+43%).

Some food prices have dropped year-on-year, however, including:

  • Bananas – 34%
  • Butternut –  19%
  • Carrots –  15%
  • Tomatoes –  15%
  • Tea –   9%

You can view the full basket comparison below:


The Competition Commission recently published findings on food price changes during South Africa’s lockdown.

Citing StatsSA data, the commission said that prices were initially high at the start of the country’s lockdown in early April but, subsequently receded.

“This is consistent with a trend of initial panic buying in late March and early April, and then a steady easing or decrease in prices after that point,” it said.

The commission said that food constitutes 30% of low-income household expenditure and is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, so containing price inflation is a priority during the crisis.

The category with the largest pricing hike is “milk, eggs and cheese” which initially soared, but decreased in the following weeks.

Comparing PMBEJD data from March 2020 (pre-lockdown) and July, current prices for items like rice (+28%), cabbage (+19%) and margarine (+18%) remain higher than they were before lockdown – but food like apples (-36%), bananas (-29%) and carrots (-9%) are now cheaper than before.

These changes are outlined below:

Read: Food price changes during South Africa’s lockdown – here’s what you are paying more for

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Food prices in South Africa are down – here’s what you are paying less for