It’s a good time to braai in South Africa – but definitely skip the potato salad

 ·28 Sep 2023

While Heritage Day – the so-called “braai day” – is past us, South Africans can afford to have more than one gathering around the fire, with meat prices continuing to drop.

The latest food basket data from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group (PMBEJD) shows that meat prices were generally the only foods to come down in price over the last year – while fruits and vegetables continued to surge.

According to the PMBEJD, its nutritional basket of foods has increased by another R30 in September and will set consumers back R5,155.77.

This is R31.43 (0.6%) higher than August 2023, and almost R350 higher than the same basket in September 2022.

The basket comprises 44 food items that feature in the monthly shopping of the majority of South African households and gives an indication of real price shifts at a retail level in the country, even when compared to the official inflation rate.

Year-on-year inflation for the basked was at 7.3% – this is lower than food inflation tracked in Stats SA’s CPI, which came in at 8.0% in August. The PMBEJD’s year-on-year basket price difference was also 7.3% in August.

While ‘real’ food inflation appears to be coming in lower than the Stats SA basket, not all things are equal.

24 of the 44 items in the basket are still showing double-digit price jumps compared to a year ago, and six of these items are more than 20% higher. All of these high-increase food items are fruits and vegetables.

Onions and potatoes have seen the biggest increases overall.

  • Onions: +63%
  • Potatoes: +47%
  • Butternut: +40%
  • Oranges: +35%
  • Green Pepper: +34%
  • Carrots: +29%

On the other side of the equation, five food items have actually come down in price – and two prices have remained relatively stable. Aside from tomatoes (-18%) and cooking oil (-21%), the price reductions or stabilizations are for meat.

  • Cooking oil: -21%
  • Tomatoes: -18%
  • Beef: -7%
  • Inyama yangaphakathi (tripe): -3%
  • Wors: -1%
  • Fish: 0%
  • Frozen chicken portions: 0%

The findings from the PMBEJD broadly lines up with the trends seen in the wider agricultural sector, where the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) recently pointed to meat production costs also dropping in the near term.

The BFAP noted that the average price of beef dropped from R60.35 per kg in Q2 2022 to R53.80 in Q2 2023 – almost 11%.

However, the good news for meat prices is not across the board.

According to the BFAP, while the lower prices are reflective of growing demand for meat and better producer conditions, tighter budgets and dampened consumer spending also factor into the costs.

In addition to this, while beef and sheep meat are showing a significant drop in prices, pork and poultry are far more muted.

Poultry, in particular, is in deep trouble, with chicken producers having to contend with load shedding constraints on production as well as mass culling due to the avian flu, which is infecting entire populations.

As a result, producers have warned of likely supply constraints, which will invariably impact prices.

Read: How much more it costs to have a Heritage Day braai in South Africa

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