South Africa’s poor living on R7 a day

 ·19 Oct 2015

A new report shows the impact of food price inflation for low-income households in South Africa.

The report, published by Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), found that low-income households are underspending on food by as much as 55.6%.

The 2015 PacsaFood Price Barometer Annual Report is a composite index of monthly food prices from  November 2014 to September 2015.

The cost of a basic but minimum nutritional food basket for a household of 7 (the average
household size of urban households in Pietermaritzburg) was R3,644.09 per month in September 2015.

For a household with an income of R3,200 – the maximum income level for 60% of Pietermaritzburg households – proper nutrition comes to 113.9% of household income.

The food which these households buy every month cost R1,616.97 in September 2015; and comes to 50.5% of the R3,200 household income.

Broken down further, when dividing that amount between seven people monthly, it means R230 for each inhabitant, or R7.66 per person, per day for food.

The overall food price inflation on the Pacsa food basket over the period of review:
from November 2014 to September 2015 was 4.3%.  In Rand value, the cost of the basket increased by R66.10 from R1,550.87 to R1,616.97, the organisation said.

It found that maize meal (25kg), South Africa’s core staple food, increased by 14.4%, white  sugar (10kg) increased by 6.7%, rice (10kg) increased by 6.3% and salt (1kg) increased by 9.7%

For households living on low incomes, food expenditure is not the first priority. Households prioritise transport, education,  electricity, and burial insurance, Pacsa said.

“Because food is last in the line of expenditure, in a context of low levels of
income, households struggle to purchase the food they require.  In most low-income households the food runs out before the end of the month,” the report said.

While R2,362 is the average minimum wage set by the Employment Conditions Commission across sectoral determinations, Pacsa says that the minimum wage should be R8,000 “if we are talk of the possibility of accessing a basic life of dignity”.

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