Good news for Christmas braais in South Africa

 ·6 Dec 2023

Price rises for South Africa’s traditional barbecue have slowed for the first time in four months, just in time for the holidays as the country gets ready to grill its way through December.

South Africans do love a braai, as the barbecue is known locally, and during the prolonged Christmas break, it goes from being a weekend treat to a frequent staple.

A sharp drop in onion and potato prices, which have declined 24% and 11%, respectively, cooled the overall pace of increase in Bloomberg’s Shisa Nyama Index to 10% last month versus a 17% increase in October.

Nationally, food prices rose 8.8% in October compared with the same period last year, data from Statistics South Africa showed, helping quicken annual consumer price inflation to 5.9% from 5.4% in September.

South Africa’s central bank has lifted interest rates to a 14-year high of 8.25% and says inflation risks warrant keeping borrowing costs elevated for longer. The latest inflation statistics are scheduled to be announced on Dec. 13.

Crunching data from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, the shisa nyama index tracks the prices of key ingredients in a traditional barbecue consumed in South African townships, including potatoes, cooking oil, corn meal, carrots, tomatoes, frozen chicken, beef and wors – a sausage made from ground meat offcuts.

To compile its survey, the PMBEJD’s data collectors track the prices of 44 food items on the shelves of 47 supermarkets and 32 butcheries that target the low-income market in the greater areas of Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Springbok in the far northwest and the far north-eastern town of Mtubatuba.

Supply Constraints

The uptick in food inflation has largely been a function of supply constraints for some food items, including potato prices, which, although showing a large moderation, have remained sticky, said Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa.

“The recent rise in the price of these products will probably be a temporary blip,” Sihlobo said. “I remain optimistic that South Africa’s consumer food price inflation will return to a moderating path going into 2024.”

A better-than-expected weather outlook, which could potentially mean the agricultural sector will escape the worst impacts of El Niño events, also bodes well for food prices, he added.

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