Food prices shoot up in South Africa

 ·29 Nov 2022

The latest Household Affordability Index by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group (PMBEJD) shows that food prices in South Africa continue to rise in November.

For November, the group’s basket of nutritional foods came to R4,835.96 up by R48.13 (1%), from R4,787.83 in October 2022, and up R563.52 (13.2%), from R4,272.44 in November 2021.

The year-on-year increase outstrips headline inflation by quite a considerable margin, and even food inflation tracked by Stats SA. Headline inflation was recorded at 7.6% in October 2022, up marginally from 7.5% in September 2022.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 12.0% year on year, and were one of the key drivers behind the surprise increase in headline inflation.

According to Stats SA, bread & cereals, meat and dairy are currently driving food prices higher in South Africa.

The bread and cereals category continues to witness high levels of inflation, with the annual rate increasing to 19.5% from 19.3% in September. Large monthly price increases were recorded for sweet biscuits (5.5%), macaroni (3.1%) and maize meal (1.7%).

Annual meat inflation also quickened in October, rising to 10.5% from 9.9% in September. Beef prices registered large monthly increases, most notably steak (2.5%), stewing beef (1.2%) and mince (1.1%).

The dairy index (milk, eggs & cheese) registered an annual increase of 10.5%, the highest rate since February 2017 (10.7%). Products recording significant monthly increases include long-life full-cream milk (3.5%), fresh full-cream milk (1.8%) and cheddar cheese (1.2%).

These price jumps are also reflected in the PMBEJD’s data, which shows milk prices up 12%, bread prices up 20% and meat prices up between 6% and 16%.

The PMBEJD said that food prices are notoriously unpredictable and differ from area to area, thanks to various push and pull factors influencing costs.

In November 2022, food basket prices actually decreased in Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg, while food baskets increased in Joburg, Durban, and Springbok.

The data shows a switch – the areas which saw a decrease in October (Durban, Springbok), saw an increase in November – and those that increased in October have now come down. However, these shifts are marginal compared to the bigger picture year-on-year, where prices have shot up significantly.

The group noted these regional variations:

  • Joburg saw increases mostly on their vegetables and fruits.
  • Durban saw increases almost across the board in the basket: from the major staples of maize meal (up 17%), flour (up 14%), samp (up 13%), cooking oil (up 7%), to the dairy, meats, onions (up 15%) and spinach and oranges.
  • Cape Town increases saw mostly meats increase in price, with potatoes and onions, and salts, soups, and stocks.
  • Springbok, like, Durban showed a high number of foods in the basket spiking, specifically: flour and sugar; meats, some vegetables: onions, tomatoes, green pepper; and both white and brown bread.
  • Pietermaritzburg prices were subdued, with few increases. Prices that increased were on milk, onions, carrots, green pepper, apples, and oranges.

Rising prices

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

In the basket, only six items showed a price drop between November 2021 and November 2022. Only one item – potatoes – showed a significant drop in the double-digits, coming down 23%.

The other 38 items in the basket all saw a price jump, 24 of which were in the double digits.

Notably, onions are almost double the price they were last year, having seen a 97% price increase.

These are the food items that have seen the largest price increases year on year:

Read: Inflation shock for South Africa – and it’s bad news for meat lovers

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter