How much more you’re paying for petrol, electricity and food in South Africa versus a year ago

 ·14 Sep 2023

Stubbornly high inflation has led to the costs of living rapidly spiralling out of control in South Africa, forcing many to turn to credit and other forms of debt just to make it through to the end of each month.

Following two years of pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic and the government’s heavy lockdowns, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 put further pressure on the global economy, with almost every country trying to curb rising energy and food prices amid inflationary pressures.

However, making things worse in South Africa is the continued battle with a strained electricity supply, leading to record load shedding, a weak rand, rising fuel prices, inflationary pressure, and high interest rates while socio-political inability from government inaction, corruption, and policy stagnation has fostered weak growth, low confidence and muted wages.

Stats SA’s latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) data tracked headline inflation at 4.7%, at the upper boundary of the containment range put in place by the South African Reserve Bank.

Despite headline CPI still being within the ‘allowable’ range, many of the essentials in the basket – fuel, electricity and food – are seeing price increases far outside this range due to the sustained overrun of inflation since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Fuel prices

South African motorists are now paying almost R25 per litre to fill up their cars from today (6 September), with the cost of diesel and petrol climbing by around R1.71 and R2.84 per litre, respectively.

Fuel prices have increased significantly since the start of the year, with petrol prices rising by 14.6%. Diesel, meanwhile, has increased by 8.7% despite consecutive cuts in the first half of 2023.

As of September, inland 95 octane petrol costs R24.54/l, while at the coast, it costs R23.82/l, factoring in the slate levy and other expenses. Diesel was hiked by between R2.76 and R2.84 a litre.

South Africa’s diesel price climbed by the most in three years, spurred by higher international fuel costs and a slump in the rand, while petrol increased by the most in 14 months.

According to the Central Energy Fund (CEF) data, higher international oil prices contribute between 80% and 88% to the increases, with the weaker rand/dollar exchange rate contributing the rest.

Concerningly, the prospects of any relief at the pumps for the rest of 2023 are bleak, with international oil prices expected to remain well above $90 per barrel into the first quarter of 2024, according to Standard Chartered economists.

Additionally, according to Investec chief economist Annabel Bishop, the risks to the rand remain squarely on the downside, with the currency more likely (43% chance) to head towards the R20.50 to the dollar point by the end of the year.

Food prices

Food prices also outstrip headline CPI at 9.9%, with some items in the basket substantially above that. Milk, eggs & cheese prices stand out as being 14.4% more costly than in 2022, while the sugar, sweets & dessert categories are far more expensive, up 18.7%.

While food prices fluctuate month-to-month, as many households can attest, things have become a lot more expensive over the past year.

The latest Household Affordability Index by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group (PMBEJD) shows that food prices in August 2023 are about 7.3% more costly than in 2022.

The group tracks a basket of 44 commonly-bought food items, which totalled R5,124.34 in August 2023, around R349 more expensive than the same basket in 2022.

As with fuel, the ongoing war in Ukraine continues to be the biggest global driver of higher food prices due to disruptions in the global supply chain, while rising energy prices and increased input costs due to load shedding also play a part.

The graph below shows the PMBEJD food basket prices from 2022 to 2023.

Electricity prices

Households continue to pay for incompetence in the power sector, with Eskom increasingly turning to tariff hikes to balance out its debt payments and capital expenditure problems.

Energy regulator Nersa granted Eskom an 18.65% increase in tariffs for direct customers, effective April 2023, with another municipal electricity tariff increase of 15.1% taking effect in July 2023.

The price hikes will take the average electricity tariff in South Africa from just over R1.46 per kWh to around R1.84. The average reflects the national average – urban customers who consume power in higher blocks will pay significantly more than this.

In the CPI basket, electricity prices also far outstrip headline inflation, coming in at an average of 14.5% across all provinces.

Since load shedding started in 2008, electricity has increased by a shocking 450%, drastically outstripping CPI by 352%, with inflation recorded at 98% over the same period. What’s worse is that Nersa also granted Eskom a further 12.74% tariff increase effective in April 2024.

How much more you will be paying exactly is dependent on what type of electricity customer you are. Eskom has published its fee adjustments for 2022/23 and has included a fee calculator and comparison tool.

An urban resident using around 200 kWh per month in Gauteng would see their monthly power bill of R590 increase to R700 – an increase of 18.68%

Read: Tricks and tips to bring down your cost of living in South Africa

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