Food prices right now: Joburg vs Cape Town vs Durban

The latest food price data tracked by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD), shows that prices in Johannesburg have dropped over the last month – and that Durban now has the most costly food basket across the three major metros tracked by the group.

The PMBEJD’s basket comprises 44 core food items most frequently purchased by lower-income households, who make up most households in the country.

The monthly food basket totalled R4,275.94 in December, up R3.50 (0.01%) from R4,272.44 in November – pointing to relatively flat prices over the last month. However, the same basket in December 2020 was R4,002.42, meaning households are paying R273.52 more (6.8%) than a year ago.

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 Producer Price Index for October 2021 shows that agricultural inflation was 8.7%.

As part of its monthly price analysis, the PMBEJD looks at fluctuations in five different cities: three major metros, being Joburg, Durban and Cape Town, and two smaller regions – Springbok in the Northern Cape, and Pietermaritzburg, where the data tracking first started.

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).


Major metros

Across the major metros, Cape Town has seen the biggest jump in basket prices year-on-year – however, it remains the major metro with the lowest overall basket price at R4,219.18.

Durban has overtaken Joburg as having the most expensive basket across the three major metros tracked by the PMBEJD, having increased 6.8% year on year to R4,319.75.

Joburg, meanwhile, saw the smallest year-on-year increase at 5.7%, and now has the second most expensive basket across the three major metros at R4,302.27. Of all the cities covered by the PMBEJD, Joburg was also the only one to see a month-on-month drop in the basket price, albeit marginally.

Outliers

Remote areas like Springbok (Northern Cape) saw smaller increases – around 5.3% – over the last year; however, food prices in these areas are generally much higher, so increases are off a high base.

Similarly, Pietermaritzburg saw the largest year-on-year jump overall (+11.3%) but with the cheapest basket across all five cities, this is off a low base.

Month on month food price changes:

  • Joburg: -0.07%
  • Durban: +0.3%
  • Cape Town: +0.5%
  • Springbok: +1.3%
  • Pietermaritzburg: 0.0%

Year on year food price changes:

  • Joburg: +5.7%
  • Durban: +6.8%
  • Cape Town: +8.0%
  • Springbok: +5.3%
  • Pietermaritzburg: +11.3%

Across the different food categories, each region has a cheapest and most expensive food offering.

While the Pietermarizburg basket is the cheapest overall – with 21 of the 44 food items carrying the lowest cost – it still has the highest prices for five items, including milk and beef.

Similarly, while Springbok is the most expensive basket overall – with 22 of 44 food items carrying the highest cost – six food items in the area are the cheapest across all cities, including margarine, beef and potatoes.

In the major metros, Cape Town carries the lowest prices for eight items, and has the most expensive prices for five. Joburg has the most expensive basket with six of the highest prices, and three of the lowest.

Durban is the middle ground with four of the cheapest and five of the most expensive items in the basket.


Read: 15 food items that got exceptionally more expensive in 2021 – and one that got a lot cheaper

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Food prices right now: Joburg vs Cape Town vs Durban