Reading Time: 3 minutes

Food Price Increases

We all know prices are going up but just how much more is going to the shops costing the average South African family each month?

Some recent food price stats can help answer that question and help when preparing budgets and working out affordability (eg. when credit providers work out whether consumers can afford credit or courts work out what people need to survive).

The Food Basket Stats

The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group (PMBEJD) regularly release stats tracking food prices across the country.

They compare these prices month by month and compare them to where they were a year ago.

This is interesting to compare these practical everyday shopping items with the global price increases as tracked by Government and Stats SA.

The latest food basket figures reveal just how steep the increase for some items has been, particularly with vegetables experiencing double digit percentage increases.

The information is based on prices at 47 supermarkets and 32 butcheries, in Johannesburg (Soweto, Alexandra, Tembisa and Hillbrow), Durban (KwaMashu, Umlazi, Isipingo, Durban CBD, Hammarsdale and Pinetown), Cape Town (Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Philippi, Langa, Delft and Dunoon), Pietermaritzburg, Mtubatuba (in Northern KwaZulu-Natal), and Springbok (in the Northern Cape).

Nearly R500 in 12 months

In November 2023, the household food basket, suitable for 2 adults with kids, which is made up of 44 commonly purchased items (like: Maize meal, rice, sugar, cooking oil, potatoes, salt, milk, tea, fruit, peanut butter etc), increased to R5,314.63.

While prices went up only R17 from last month (which is great) the real problem is very visible when we look further back. Compared to 12 months ago the increase has been nearly 10% or R478.67.

The Impact on Everyday Items

Prices are defiantly going up and up.

Looking over the contents of the PMBEJD’s food basket, it’s sad to see that despite recent petrol price drops and lower inflation, only three out of the 44 tracked items went down in price year-on-year, while just one remained around the same cost.

In contrast, a staggering 40 items experienced price hikes, with 19 of them registering double digit growth.

Notable spikes included potatoes (92%), eggs (68%), butternut (45%), and oranges (36%). Potatoes, in particular, have nearly doubled in price compared to the end of 2022.

Factors Messing With Prices

Several factors contribute to the soaring prices, such as load shedding and import restrictions impacting rice prices.

The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) attributes the 24% reduction in potato volumes to load shedding’s impact on irrigation. The Avian Flu outbreak also significantly affected egg prices, complicating import processes and contributing to their substantial price increase.

The Price Is Not Right

So, if we look at this trend, we can see that the price of more commonly used items is going up slightly faster than global prices for absolutely everything else.

Is it ironic that these items prices are getting hiked faster than other less popular items or is it a case of the shops making more money off these items?

It is hard to know.

The effect is the same regardless of the reason. Consumers are paying more each time they head to the shops.

Those who take such costs into consideration, like credit providers considering offering credit or the NCR and BASA looking at the old 2009 guidelines for household costs in regard to DCRS should take note.

Debt Counsellors too need to be aware that their proposals made in the past may not have taken these additional pressures into account. Over time, consumers are going to find it harder and harder to stick to repayment plans as their food bills creep higher and higher.