Here’s how much food prices have shot up in South Africa

 ·15 Mar 2024

South Africans increasingly have to dig deeper and deeper into their pockets to afford the same essential household items at the store.

According to the February 2024 Household Affordability Index by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group (PMBEJD), the average cost of the household food basket is R5,277.30 – a slight decrease (-0.9%) from January.

However, this represents an annual increase of R348,96 (7,1%) from the R4,928.34 total that was recorded in February 2023.

“2024 is likely to be another difficult year for families,” said PMBEJD.

Data from the group shows that since August 2018, there has been a 73.68% increase in the average cost of the household food basket (R3,009.65 to R5,277.30).

This is well above inflation, as according to – a worldwide inflation data platform – South Africa’s Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) has been around 34% since 2017.

Looking at specific food items, The Outlier’s new tool tracks the price of 15 items found in South Africa’s essential basket of food items using Stat SA’s Consumer Price Index data dating back to 2017. Using this data, it is seen that:

Food Item2017 price2024 price% change
Full cream milk (2 litre)R26.06R35.32+35.53%
White bread loafR13.41R18.53+38.18%
Eggs (18 pack)R37.17R68.19+83.45%
Rice (1 kg)R18.65R31.10+66.76%
Instant coffee (250g)R34.83R58.86+68.99%
Spaghetti (500g)R13.15R19.73+50.04%
Beef mince (per kg)R71.34R105.94+48.50%
Whole chicken (per kg)R43.69R65.74+50.47%
Potatoes (per kg)R12.51R22.62+80.82%
Tomatoes (per kg)R16.04R28.39+76.99%
White sugar (2.5 kg)R37.18R62.01+66.78%
Macaroni (500g)R12.88R18.35+42.47%
Chocolate slab (80g)R14.15R21.55+52.30%
Bananas (per kg)R16.33R21.20+29.82%
Sanitary pads (per pack)R21.05R26.43+25.56%

Only two out of 15 items (bananas and sanitary pads) have increased below CPI, while the biggest spikes can be seen in the price of eggs (+ 83.45%), potatoes (+ 80.82%), and tomatoes (+ 76.99%).

“We are yet to see significant drops in prices, which would ease the affordability crisis in the trolley,” said the PMBEJD.

The group said that people tell them “that it hasn’t been a good start to the year for them – food prices and other critical goods and services are still very high relative to income levels, [meaning they] have had to take on higher levels of debt to try and close some gaps, whose servicing will put even greater pressure on the little monies that come into the home going forward.”

These increases affect everyone but disproportionately hurt those struggling to make ends meet in the first place.

According to the PMBEJD, the February 2024 cost of a basic nutritional food basket for a family of four persons is R3,680.83. The National Minimum Wage is R25.42 an hour and R203.36 for an 8-hour day.

In February 2024, with 21 working days, the maximum National Minimum Wage for a General Worker is R4,270.56. However, according to the PMBEJD, electricity and transport alone takes up over 60% of a worker’s expenses (R2,586.92/R4,270.56).

This means that workers earning a minimum wage will underspend on food for their families by a minimum of 54,3%.

If [the rest of what is left from the salary] all went to buy food, then for a family of 4 persons, we are looking at R420.91 per person per month [which] is below the food poverty line of R760,” said PMBEJD.

Data: Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity. Graph: The Outlier

Read: These food prices have shot up over 60% in South Africa

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