Food prices continue to climb in South Africa – here’s how much more you are paying

 ·28 Feb 2023

The latest Household Affordability Index by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group (PMBEJD) shows that food prices in South Africa continued to rise in February 2023.

The average cost of the PMBEJD’s Household Food Basket was R4,928.34 – this was up R10.91 (0.2%), from R4,917.42 in January 2023, and up R572.64 (13.1%), from R4,355.70 in February 2022.

The year-on-year increase outstrips headline inflation by quite a considerable margin, and came in slightly lower than food inflation. Headline inflation was recorded at 6.9% in January, down marginally from 7.2% in December 2022.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages inflation tracked at 13.4% year-on-year.

According to Stats SA, food inflation is being driven by bread and cereal products, with the annual rate reaching 21.8% in January. This is markedly higher than the low of 1.5% recorded in January 2022. In fact, this reading is the highest since February 2009 (23.8%).

Bread & cereal products that recorded notable monthly increases in January include pastry products (pizzas and pies), which increased by 3,6%, maize (up 3.1%), and brown bread (up 1.3%).

Meat inflation increased to 11.2% in January from December’s 9.7%. Individually quick frozen (IQF) chicken portions, the highest-weighted meat product, witnessed a monthly price increase of 2.7% between December and January.

Other meat products that recorded significant monthly price increases include fresh chicken portions (up 5.3%), beef offal (up 5.2%), and stewing beef (up 3.6%). Bacon recorded an annual rate of 19.4%.

Annual fish inflation quickened to 13.0% from 10.4% in December. This is the highest annual inflation rate for fish since May 2009 when it was 14.2%.

These trends are broadly reflected in the PMBEJD data, with the highest price inflation figures coming in for items like flour and oil – but some of the most significant increases have been for vegetables like potatoes and onions.

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

In the basket, only two items showed a price drop between February 2022 and February 2023. Only oranges showed a significant (>10%) drop in prices, while the other item – sugar beans – remained virtually unchanged in price.

The other 38 items in the basket all saw a price jump – 18 of which were above 10%.

These are the 18 food items that have seen the most significant price increases year on year:

  1. Onions: +75%
  2. Potatoes: +41%
  3. Green pepper: +34%
  4. Samp: +32%
  5. Cabbage: +29%
  6. Cake flour: +28%
  7. Maize meal: +28%
  8. Spinach: +24%
  9. Cooking oil: +22%
  10. Carrots: +20%
  11. Stock cubes: +20%
  12. Brown bread: +18%
  13. Chicken feet: +18%
  14. White bread: +18%
  15. Butternut: +17%
  16. Apricot jam: +14%
  17. Fish: +13%
  18. Canned beans: +12%

Regionally, in February 2023, food baskets decreased in Durban, Cape Town, and Pietermaritzburg, while prices increased in Joburg and Springbok.

  • The Joburg basket increased by R50,13 (1,0%) month-on-month, and increased by R512,82 (11,6%) year-on-year to R4 923,41 in February 2023.
  • The Durban basket decreased by R6,39 (-0,1%) month-on-month, and increased by R540,03 (12,2%) year-on-year to R4 968,59 in February 2023.
  • The Cape Town basket decreased by R6,02 (-0,1%) month-on-month, and increased by R739,30 (17,6%) year-on-year to R4 942,45 in February 2023.
  • The Springbok basket increased by R278,48 (5,8%) month-on-month, and increased by R484,84 (10,6%) year-on-year to R5 055,61 in February 2023.
  • The Maritzburg basket decreased by R99,21 (-2,0%) month-on-month, and increased by R566,19 (13,5%) year-on-year to R4 751,76 in February 2023.

Read: South African food producers need to brace for drought: economist

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