Key data from the October 2022 Household Affordability Index show that the latest food basket price is marginally cheaper, but consumers still go hungry as food prices put nutritious food, especially for children, out of their reach.
A Debt Rescue survey conducted in August showed that an astonishing 81% of South Africans are cutting down on daily meals due to high food prices as they cannot afford three square meals per day anymore, while 41% said their monthly grocery budget can no longer feed their families.
The index, compiled by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries, in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Springbok.
In October 2022, the average cost of the Household Food Basket was R4 787,83, a decrease of R18,03 (-0,4%) from R4 805,86 in September. But, an increase of R470,28 (10,9%) from R4 317,56 in October 2021.
- Tomatoes (6kg) by R19,04 (-15%)
- Cooking oil (5L) by R18,58 (-9%)
- Stewing beef or chuck (2kg) by R9,32 (-5%)
- Spinach (8 bunches) by R6,60 (-7%)
- Curry powder (200g) by R1,85 (-6%)
The prices of maize meal, white sugar, samp, frozen chicken portions, amasi, wors, cabbage and white bread also decreased by less than 5%.
However, some items were more expensive:
- onions (10kg) increased by R21,57 (23%)
- Butternut (10kg) increased by R21,46 (21%)
- Carrots (5kg) increased by R3,20 (10%)
- Green pepper (2kg) increased by R5,41 (11%)
- Oranges (7kg) increased by R4,22 (11%)
- Chicken feet (2kg) increased by R4,58 (6%)
- Chicken livers (2kg) increased by R4,99 (8%)
- Polony (2,5kg) increased by R3,27 (5%)
The prices of other foods also increase by less than 5% for rice, sugar beans, potatoes and peanut butter.
The price of the food baskets decreased in Johannesburg, Durban and Springbok, while the price increased in Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg.
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Children going hungry, minimum wage too small
The average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet was R825,31 in October, R3,33 (-0,4%) less than in September, but R78,17 (10,5%) more than in October 2021. The Child Support Grant of R480 is 28% below the Food Poverty Line of R663 and 42% below the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet (R825,31) in October.
As children grow older, their nutritional requirements increase. It means that the cost of feeding a child increases in price as a child grows older and is also different for teenage girls and boys. However, the Child Support Grant is a fixed amount: it does not account for age.
The group says households living on low incomes change their purchasing patterns in response to changes in affordability conditions. On low incomes, women buy the core staple foods first, so that their families do not go hungry and for basic meals to be prepared.
Where the money remaining is short, women have no choice but to drop foods from their trolleys or reduce the volumes of nutritionally rich foods in their trolleys. This has negative consequences for health, wellbeing and nutrition.
As financial and economic circumstances worsen, so too does household health and nutrition. The gap between what women can buy and what they need to buy for proper nutrition – widens, the group says.
The Basic Nutritional Food Basket is an attempt to track the cost of foods required for balanced nutrition, mainly the foods and the cost of these foods for families to ensure their health and nutrition and for children to grow and develop properly.
The basket was designed in consultation with a Registered Dietician Philippa Barnard.
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Basic nutritional food basket
The Basic Nutritional Food Basket is an index on which we can start talking realistically about the cost of nutritious food and the inadequacies of low wages and social grants. Importantly it ensures that current food expenditure (severely limited by affordability constraints) is not conflated with the food expenditure required to secure proper nutrition.
The National Minimum Wage for workers is R23,19 an hour and R185,52 for an 8-hour day. October had 21 working days, which means a general worker earned R3 895,92. The cost of a basic nutritional food basket for a family of four was R3 234,69 in October.
According to the group’s calculations using Pietermaritzburg-based figures, electricity and transport take up 59% of a worker’s wage. They only buy food after they paid for transport and electricity, leaving only R1 596,42 for food and everything else.
This means, according to the group that workers’ families underspent on food by a minimum of 50,6% if they have R1 596,42 left after paying for transport and electricity and with food costing R3 234,69.