The latest Household Affordability Index by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group (PMBEJD) shows that food prices increased in October – and basket prices over the last 12 months have risen by 10%, far outpacing headline inflation.
The civil society initiative found that its household food basket recorded a significant month-on-month price increase, and remains at much higher levels than October 2020.
The average Household Food Basket increased by R98.08 (2.3%) month-on-month, and R400.83 (10.2%) year-on-year. In October 2021, the average Household Food Basket costs R4,317.56. The rise in food prices in October is in line with predictions and are set to continue into 2022, the group said.
The basket comprises 44 core food items most frequently purchased by lower-income households, who make up most households in the country. Of the 44 foods, 15 came down in price in October; four foods had zero change, and 25 foods increased.
These were the most significant changes, where prices increased or declined by 10% or more.
September 2021 – October 2021 big changes:
- Butternut: +56%
- Potatoes: +41%
- Tomatoes: +27%
- Onions: -12%
- Oranges: -17%
October 2020 – October 2021 big changes:
- Potatoes: +46%
- Sugar beans: +36%
- Beef liver: +30%
- Cooking oil: +24%
- Gizzards: +23%
- Tomatoes: +22%
- Chicken livers: +22%
- Eggs: +18%
- Beef: +18%
- Samp: +17%
- Plony: +17%
- Butternut: +15%
- Apples: +15%
- Maize meal: +15%
- Margarine: +14%
- Wors: +12%
- Frozen chicken pieces: +11%
- Full cream milk: +10%
- Green pepper: -14%
- Oranges: -36%
According to the PMBEJD, October further typically sees higher vegetable prices – specifically potatoes, butternut, and tomatoes – due to seasonal changes.
Potatoes, for example, have been harvested in the Free State and Limpopo, although unfavourable weather conditions resulted in lower yields. The next crop in KZN will be ready from December, it said.
Rising potato prices are a problem because they are a key staple food; and also provide substance in meal preparation, the PMBEJD said. Reports from consumers are that the quality of potatoes either in supermarkets or from street vendors are extremely poor.
“They are old and hard and dry and small and generally terrible. Potatoes on the streets however are much cheaper, so, women still buy them and hope for the best,” the group said.
“We are also seeing some anomalies in food prices across areas, with a spike in maize meal prices in parts of Joburg and Cape Town, and higher milk, amasi and egg prices, higher poultry and meat prices, and bread prices in some areas.”
Cape Town saw a surge in prices this month of R174.49 (4.2%) month-on-month. Cape Town prices have tended to be moderate over the past year, October has seen a shift which brings the total cost of the basket (R4,280.67) more in line with Joburg (R4,305.69) and Durban (R4,327.06) prices.