Staple foods remain expensive


The much-needed food items that most South Africans cannot live without were even more expensive in August than before.

The latest Household Affordability Index report by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD) shows that it was on average R42.40 more expensive to shop in August than in July.

The food items that are prioritized and bought first, regardless of price increases, also remain extremely high this month. This includes items such as cornmeal, rice, flour, white sugar, cooking oil, salt, potatoes, onions, frozen chicken portions and bread.

In August, the price of rice rose by 5%, white sugar and white bread were 4% more expensive and frozen chicken portions and sausage cost you 3% more.

The prices of various types of vegetables and fruits have also increased. Butternut squash is 9% more expensive, apples and oranges cost you 8% more, bananas are 4% more expensive and spinach and potatoes cost you 2% more.

Items that are considered staples cost a total of R2 826,37. Only after these items are purchased, money is spent on other basic items. It now costs an average of R5 124.34 to buy a food basket with just the basic items.

It is more than R40 more expensive than in July when it cost R5 081.94.

“The high cost of staple food items means that many essential foods that are nutritious never reach families’ plates,” says the PMBEJD.

“There is generally a very small variety of foods on our plates and we don’t get the nutrients our bodies need. This has negative consequences for household health and well-being, child development and resistance to disease.”

Rice price volatile

According to PMBEJD’s research, rice is, next to maize flour, one of the staple food items that is served up the most in South African households. However, the price of this remains extremely volatile from month to month, especially after India recently announced a ban on rice exports.

Most of South Africa’s rice is imported from Thailand (76.5%), while 19.1% of the rice comes from India. However, one of the world’s largest exporters of rice in India decided earlier this month to stop exporting its rice with immediate effect.

India’s decision was taken to ensure “adequate availability” on home soil and “(to) ease the rise in prices in the domestic market”.

PMBEJD’s research shows that the price of rice has increased in most shops – some have increased slightly, while others’ prices have increased exponentially. The rice ban is likely to cause rice prices to rise worldwide.

PMBEJD says it is concerned about the possible further increases in prices, precisely because so many South Africans see it as a staple food item that is quick and easy to make, especially amid continued load shedding.

“Rice prices in stores will need to be closely monitored to ensure that India’s rice ban is not used to inflate prices and make them higher than is reasonable or fair.”

Inflation on food basket prices by area

In August, the price of a basket of food rose in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Springbok and Mtubatuba. The prices fell only in Pietermaritzburg.

In Johannesburg, it was R64.28 (1.2%) more expensive to buy a basket of food than last month.

Shopping in Durban was R47,73 (1%) more expensive in August compared to the previous month.

Those in Cape Town also had to pay R7,24 (0,1%) more for their shopping. Although the taxi strike did not seem to have a direct effect on the price of food items in August, it did affect those who wanted to shop.

In addition to the difficulties encountered in getting to stores, many store shelves were also empty due to delays in deliveries.

Residents of Springbok paid R79.71 (1.5%) more for their food basket and Mtubatuba paid R54.51 (1.1%) more.

Shopping in Pietermaritzburg was R14.58 (-0.3%) cheaper this month compared to the previous month.

Over the same period last year (August), the price of a food basket rose in all these areas.

Household and personal hygiene products

The index for household and personal hygiene products increased in August and brings the average cost of these items to R974,99; this is R11.22 (1.2%) more compared to the previous month.

These are all products that are necessary for basic hygiene, but these products also compete with essential food items.

  • Additional source: AFP