The cities where South Africans pay the most for food

 ·4 Apr 2024

The average cost of household grocery baskets has seen a substantial increase over recent years, with noticeable price variations observed across various South African cities and towns.

This observation is evident in the fact that Johannesburg, Springbok, and Mtubatuba each display food baskets that exceed the national average.

This is according to the March 2024 Household Affordability Index by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group (PMBEJD).

The index tracks the prices of 44 basic foods from 47 supermarkets and 32 butcheries in low-income areas across Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Mtubatuba, and Springbok.

“The supermarkets and butcheries selected… are those which most households, in the areas in which they live, do their shopping in, and which offer the cheapest/or most affordable prices,” said the PMBEJD.

The PMBEJD said that that price cannot be “considered the basket for every family living on a low income,” however can be “considered a reasonable proxy for a food basket which [participants] identified as including the most important typical foods which most households try and buy each month, given affordability constraints.”

According to the index, countrywide average South African household food basket for March 2024 costs R311.72 more than it did in March 2023 – bringing the total to R5,277.93.

The different cities

Looking at the different cities, consumers in Springbok in the Northern Cape would have to dig the deepest into their pockets when paying at the tills, sporting a 5.2% monthly and 8% annual increase in their total food bills.

This is contrasted with Maritzburg, which sports an average food basket that is over R150 below the national average. However, it is still a couple hundred rand more than what they were paying last year.

AreaMarch 2023 average basketMarch 2024 average basketChange
CountrywideR4 966.21R5 277.93+6.3%
JohannesburgR5 020.21R5 387.28+7.3%
Durban R4 871.40R5 244.11+7.7%
Cape TownR4 927.77R5 158.61+4.7%
SpringbokR5 430.03R5 862.74+7.97%
MaritzburgR4 892.35R5 122.13 +4.7%
MtubatubaR5 150.38R5 375.88+4.4%
Source: Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group March 2023 & 24 reports

The latest report from February 2024 by Statistics South Africa shows that inflation, was 5.6%. For people who spend the least, prices went up more – between 5.9% and 6.9%. Food prices went up by 6.0% while agricultural products went up by 6.5%.

Too pricy for many

Important to note is that the research shows that most South Africans, across all provinces, who earn a minimum wage cannot afford an adequate amount of food.

The maximum National Minimum Wage for a general worker currently sits at R4,192.16, while the March 2024 cost of a basic nutritional food basket for a family of four persons is R3,694.62.

However, electricity, and transport, takes up an average of 57.9% of a worker’s wage (those earning minimum wage) (R2 426,92/R4 192,16).

This leaves R1,765.24 for food and all other costs.

PMBEJD calculates that workers’ families will underspend on food by a minimum of 52.2%.

“In this scenario, there is no possibility of a worker being able to afford enough nutritious food for their family,” said the PMBEJD. “If the entire R1,765.24 all went to buy food, then for a family of 4 persons, we are looking at R441.31 per person per month – below the food poverty line of R760,” they added.

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

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