South Africans will be hit by a price hike double-blow over December, with another massive jump in fuel prices adding inflationary pressure to groceries and other expenses across the country.
The Department of Energy announced a 75 cents per litre hike in petrol prices, pushing pump costs to over R20 a litre in inland regions of South Africa. Meanwhile, food inflation currently sits outside the inflation range targeted by the South African Reserve Bank, and is anticipated to keep climbing.
According to food price data tracked by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD), the cost of food nationally has increased by 6.3% over the last year – higher than headline inflation at 5%, and outside the upper boundary of the SARB’s target range of 4%-6%.
Statistics South Africa’s latest Consumer Price Index for October 2021 shows that Headline Inflation is 5%, and for the lowest expenditure quintiles 1-3, it is 6.5%, 6% and 5.2% respectively. CPI Food inflation is 6.7%.
The latest Household Affordability Index by the PMBEJD shows that the average cost of the Household Food Basket was at R4,272.44 – down R45.11 (-1%), from October.
Year-on-year, the average cost of the food basket increased by R254.19 (6.3%), from R4,018.25 in November 2020, and the overall basket cost is R416.10 (10.8%) higher than September 2020, when the basket was first tracked.
Across the different cities where prices are tracked, however, Joburg and Durban have seen the biggest jump in prices year on year at around 7%. Cape Town has seen the smallest increase among the major metros, at 5.6%.
Remote areas like Springbok (Northern Cape) saw smaller increases – around 2.5% – over the last year; however, food prices in these areas are generally much higher, so increases are off a high base.
The difference in cost of the total household food basket in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town is consistent at around ±R150. Springbok and Pietermaritzburg tend to be outliers in the data (Springbok being highest, and Pietermaritzburg being lowest).
Across the different food categories, each region has a cheapest and most expensive food offering.
While the Pietermarizburg basket is the cheapest overall – with 18 of the 44 food items carrying the lowest cost – it still has the highest prices for eight items, including milk, beef, and oranges.
Similarly, while Springbok is the most expensive basket overall – with 17 of 44 food items carrying the highest cost – six food items in the area are the cheapest across all cities, including margarine, peanut butter, and apricot jam.
In the major metros, Cape Town carries the lowest prices for 12 items, and has the most expensive prices for six. Joburg has the most expensive basket with nine of the highest prices, and four of the lowest.
Durban is the middle ground with four of the cheapest and most expensive items in the basket.
In November 2021, all household food baskets except for the Joburg basket declined. The country’s most populous city saw higher vegetable prices, cooking oil and bread in November.
“The declines for all other baskets were off very high spikes in October, mostly driven by seasonal changes in vegetable prices, and the delayed run-through of the electricity price increase,” the PMBEJD said.
“The decline in prices in November are inconsistent with past trends, albeit in most cases the decreases were less than the spikes a month earlier. Food prices are extremely volatile at the moment.”
The continuing run-through of higher electricity prices in the long value chains, and the cost of alternative supplies when electricity is not available; the steeper fuel price hikes and higher cost of transportation; and the weakening rand, all work to drive food prices upwards, it said.