The average cost of a monthly food basket for South African households has increased by 8.6% in one year, higher than the figure reported by Stats SA.
Primarily due to fuel price hikes in 2021, the cost of food in South Africa is expected to continue on an upward trajectory in 2022.
According to the programme coordinator for the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, Mervyn Abrahams, further increases in petrol and electricity prices could be disastrous for South Africans when it comes to food costs.
“Petrol, as well as electricity, are two of the major input costs into almost all productive activity, but in particular agricultural activity,” he told CapeTalk’s Refilwe Moloto.
“It’s not just the petrol that has to be put into the tractor to plough. It is also fertilisers, and all of those are petroleum-based.”
Abrahams added that the plastics used to package a significant proportion of South Africa’s fresh produce are also petroleum-based.
“So petrol prices and electricity prices have a major impact,” he said.
The fuel price increased by 40% between January and December 2021, and Abrahams said they expect similar increases in 2022.
“Countries selling petroleum are trying to make up for the losses during the Covid period,” said Abrahams.
These increases will directly impact food prices.
“For instance, when we look at January, our food basket for a household of seven [which consists of] 44 very basic foods now stands at R4,401.20, and that’s an increase of R125 over December and a R349 increase from January 2021,” Abrahams stated.
That represents an increase of 8.6% over January 2021.
Weather also has a massive impact on food production, and in December, we saw massive floods and heavy rains in Limpopo, the Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu Natal.
Abrahams said this translated to an increase in the cost of fresh produce between December 2021 and 2022.
“Between December and January, 6kgs of tomato had increased R25 at retail level, and that has to do directly with the climate,” he said.
The ten food items that saw the biggest price increases between December and January were:
- Oranges — 39.6%
- Tomatoes — 27.1%
- Bananas — 10.7%
- Stock cubes — 10.2%
- Carrots — 10.2%
- Apples — 7.8%
- Butternut — 7.5%
- Wors — 6.9%
- Onions — 6.8%
- Green pepper — 6.1%
It should be noted that while the price of oranges increased substantially, it was still 10% lower than in January last year. Similarly, green peppers are 4.7% cheaper year-on-year.
However, the prices of tomatoes, bananas, apples, butternut, and wors are much higher than this time last year. A table summarising the increases is reproduced at the end of the table.
The prices of other essential items have also increased substantially since January 2021.
Abrahams said the cost of chicken portions increased 17%, while the price of 60 eggs has risen by R5.39.
“We’ve also seen a constant increase in the price of maise, rice, and cooking oil,” Abrahams said.
“When those things increase and spike, it means that other things have to be thrown out of the basket, and more often than not, it is the nutritious stuff [that gets thrown out].”
In the most recent fuel price hike, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy announced that the retail prices of unleaded 95 and 93 will jump by 53 cents per litre.
However, diesel vehicle drivers — and farms that use diesel-powered equipment — will be hit harder, with the price of 500ppm going up by 79.84 cents per litre, while 50ppm will increase by 78.84 cents per litre.
January 2022 Household Food Index — All areas
The following table summarises the findings of the January 2022 Household Affordability Index compiled by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group.
Foods that have seen the greatest price increases in the past year are shown first.
|January 2022 Household Food Index|
|Foods tracked||Quantity tracked||Index 2021/22||change in %|
|Jan 2021||Dec 2021||Jan 2022||Dec 2021 vs Jan 2022||Jan 2021 vs Jan 2022|
|Frozen chicken portions||10kg||R317.24||R357.78||R371.00||3.7%||16.9%|
|Tinned pilchards||400g x6||R113.61||R121.73||R125.35||3.0%||10.3%|
|Full cream milk||6L||R73.55||R78.81||R78.84||0.0%||7.2%|
|Peanut butter||400g x2||R63.10||R63.93||R66.25||3.6%||5.0%|
|White bread||25 loaves||R333.95||R346.34||R348.19||0.5%||4.3%|
|Canned beans||410g x6||R66.39||R71.18||R68.42||-3.9%||3.1%|
|Brown bread||25 loaves||R306.82||R314.91||R316.01||0.3%||3.0%|
|Stock cubes||24 cubes x2||R39.56||R35.63||R39.26||10.2%||-0.8%|
|Total household food basket||R4,051.23||R4,275.95||R4,401.02||2.9%||8.6%|