Bad news for rice in South Africa

 ·31 May 2024

The latest Food Affordability Index from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD) shows that rice prices have shot up 35% in South Africa – with warnings from analysts that more price pain could lie ahaed.

The PMBEJD’s May 2024 Household Affordability Index showed that the average cost of a household food basket currently sits at R5,330.30.

This is a R258.70 increase from one year ago (May 2023), but a R6.01 decrease from April 2024.

PMBEJD’s Household Food Affordability Index examines 44 food prices collected directly by data collectors from the shelves of 47 supermarkets and 32 butcheries that cater to the low-income market most frequented by the people in the areas where they live.

The basket looks and compares the average food prices in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Springbok, Maritzburg, and Mtubatuba.

The food items which saw some of the biggest price increases were:

  • Rice (10kgs): +35%
  • Sugar beans (5kg): +34%
  • Eggs: +28%
  • Cremora: +28%

Analysis by Bloomberg in mid-May noted that bad weather rattled the rice market this month, driving prices of the food staple back to the cusp of 15-year highs after a period of calm.

Supplies were already upended by sweeping export restrictions from top shipper India last year and worries that drier weather from El Niño would curb output in the important growing region of Southeast Asia.

Catastrophic floods in southern Brazil added more to the jitters, Bloomberg said.

“The grain is vital for the diets of billions of people in Asia and Africa, and the fresh surge in costs could fan inflationary pressures and raise import bills for buyers,” it said.

Inflation data from Stats SA for April 2024 showed that sharp price increases were recorded for rice, with annual rice inflation accelerating to 26.4%—the highest reading since May 2009 when the rate was 41.9%.

Looking at a full breakdown of food prices covered by PMBEJD in May 2023 vs. May 2024, it is reflected as:

ItemMay 2023May 2024Percentage Change
Maize meal (30kg)R326.20R302.45-7%
Rice (10kg)R130.20R175.93+35%
Cake Flour (10kg)R127.58R129.56+2%
White sugar (10kg)R180.11R217.82+21%
Sugar beans (5kg)R167.47R225.22+34%
Samp (5kg)R63.57R63.12-1%
Cooking oil (5L)R169.65R153.899%
Salt (1kg)R14.60R16.13+11%
Potatoes (10kg)R93.50R100.90+8%
Onions (10kg)R149.29R125.98-16%
Frozen chicken portionsR399.25R388.87-3%
Curry powder (200g)R32.35R39.35+22%
Stock cubes (24 cubes x2)R47.55R48.27+2%
Soup (400g x2)R43.84R49.38+13%
Tea (250g)R25.72R30.46+18%
Full cream milk (6L)R94.03R95.98+2%
Maas (4L)R57.12R61.60+8%
Eggs (60 eggs)R129.79R165.51+28%
Chicken feet (2kg)R82.53R81.88-1%
Gizzards (2kg)R89.31R96.55+8%
Chicken livers (2kg)R75.95R79.99+5%
Beef liver (2kg)R101.76R105.41+4%
Beef (2kg)R178.09R181.49+2%
Wors (2kg)R140.50R137.83-2%
Inyama yangaphakathi (2kg)R87.75R95.02+8%
Fish (2kg)R109.23R125.56+15%
Tomatoes (6kg)R140.02R163.44+17%
Carrots (5kg)R50.32R49.49-2%
Butternut (10kg)R99.91R91.15-9%
Spinach (8 bunches)R122.37R124.14+1%
Cabbage (2 heads)R43.59R43.94+1%
Green pepper (2kg)R61.82R57.24-7%
Cremora (800g)R43.03R55.24+28%
Tinned pilchards (400g x6)R140.05R151.70+8%
Canned beans (410g x6)R82.97R93.06+12%
Bananas (4kg)R67.39R66.65-1%
Apples (3kg)R41.17R44.64+8%
Oranges (7kg)R60.57R68.89+14%
Margarine (1kg)R41.02R40.25-2%
Peanut butter (400g x2)R67.67R81.55+20%
Polony (2.5kg)R65.07R67.52+4%
Apricot jam (900g)R35.20R38.73+10%
White bread (25 loaves)R413.88R414.900%
Brown bread (25 loaves)R378.57R383.57+1%
Total household food basketR5,071.59R5,330.30+5.1%
Source: Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group

The May 2024 average cost of a basic nutritional food basket for a family of four persons is R3,745.15

After accounting for electricity and transport costs, 55.8% of a minimum wage worker’s salary is already spent.

This leaves R2,046.52 for food and other necessities.

“PMBEJD calculates that workers’ families will underspend on food by a minimum of 45,4% (having R2,046.52 left over after transport and electricity, and with food costing R3,745.15),” said the group.

“In this scenario there is no possibility of a worker being able to afford enough nutritious food for her family. If the entire R2,046.52 all went to buy food, then for a family of 4 persons, we are looking at R511.63 per person per month [and] is below the food poverty line of R760,” said the PMBEJD.

Read: Food security crisis for South Africa

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter