Massive food price increases in South Africa – here’s what you’re paying more for

 ·29 Jul 2022

The latest Household Affordability Index by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group (PMBEJD) shows that food prices continued to climb in July.

The group recorded the average cost of its Household Food Basket at R4,748 in July 2022, up R60.06 – or 1.3% – from R4,688 in June.

Year-on-year, the average cost of the Household Food Basket increased by R611.44 (14.8%), from R4,137 in July 2021.

The massive 14.8% hike is far above headline inflation (CPI) recorded in July at 7.4% and far outstrips reported food inflation at 8.6%.

This poses a stark crisis for most households whose wage and salary increases are typically tied to CPI, or come in below it. Data from BankservAfrica on the latest take-home pay numbers in the country show that the average household is getting poorer, taking home less each month – while living costs continue to rise.

While food prices are significantly higher than the same time last year and still climbing month-on-month, the PMBEJD said there is a small silver lining. “Although the average Household Food Basket continues to rise, the data over the past three months is starting to show a moderation in prices,” it said.

“Indications are that global commodity prices of grains and oilseeds and crude oil, amongst others, are stabilising. This means that imported inflation is likely to be lower, and we should begin to see some of this filtering through. We are further likely to see lower fuel prices next month.”

However, the group said that while we may start to see food prices stabilising, it is not clear when these prices will begin to fall.

“Further to this, any moderation of food prices will not mean that there will be more money in people’s pockets because July and August bring with them increases in taxi fares and higher electricity tariff prices. Pressures will therefore remain on households’ ability to afford their basic expenditures for the foreseeable future,” it said.

Food prices

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

Year on year, only three food items saw a significant price drop, with one item virtually unchanged. The remaining 40 items in the basket saw a price jump – 28 of which were above 10%.

These were the most significant changes, where prices increased or declined by 10% or more.

  • Cooking oil: +63%
  • Spinach: +55%
  • Tomatoes: +34%
  • Green pepper: +29%
  • Cake flour: +27%
  • Carrots: +27%
  • Cremora: +24%
  • Polony: +24%
  • Samp: +23%
  • Tinned pilchards: +21%
  • Butternut: +20%
  • Maize meal: +19%
  • Oranges: +19%
  • Chicken livers: +17%
  • Cabbage: +17%
  • Bananas: +17%
  • Wors: +15%
  • Beef: +14%
  • Brown bread: +14%
  • Stock cubes: +13%
  • Eggs: +13%
  • Margarine: +13%
  • Canned beans: +12%
  • White bread: +12%
  • Offal: +12%
  • White sugar: +11%
  • Onions: +10%
  • Apricot jam: +10%

Food prices July 2021 to July 2022 – big changes

Month-to-month changes are generally more marginal, with only carrots standing out – now 12% more costly.

Overall, 27 food items saw price hikes between June and July, five remained the same, while 12 came down in price.

Food prices May 2022 to June 2022 – big changes

Regionally, the difference in cost of the total household food basket in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town are consistent at around ±R150.

Springbok and Pietermaritzburg tend to be outliers in the data (Springbok being the highest, and Pietermaritzburg being the lowest).

  • The Joburg basket increased by R22.33 (0.5%) m-o-m and R583.62 (13.9%) y-o-y to R4 771.49 in July 2022.
  • The Durban basket increased by R69.10 (1.4%) m-o-m and R724.97 (17.6%) y-o-y to R4,851.88 in July 2022.
  • The Cape Town basket increased by R157.41 (3.5%) m-o-m and R576.93 (14.2%) y-o-y to R4,648.26 in July 2022.
  • The Springbok basket decreased by R127.32 (-2.5%) m-o-m and increased by R411.29 (9.1%) y-o-y to R4,919.13 in July 2022.
  • The Maritzburg basket decreased by R37.58 (-0.8%) m-o-m and increased by R600.27 (15.1%) y-o-y to R4,564.94 in July 2022.

Read: Woolworths points to massive growth in online food delivery in South Africa

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