The tough economic climate that many South Africans find themselves submerged in amid the 2020 pandemic will not be easier this festive season. This is according to new data which revealed that the price of basic goods could increase during the festive season. The financial impact was felt across the globe as government-imposed lockdown restrictions stifled movement and saw businesses incurring added sanitizing and labour expenses, being driven into debt to stay open or shutting down completely.
While December is usually a jovial time for South Africans, the impeding possibly of contracting Covid-19 during the tough economic climate has left much to be desired. Of particular concern is the cost of basic necessities which appears to be on the rise. According to Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group programme coordinator Mervyn Abrahams, food prices are “and have been on an upward trajectory this year” and are also expected to pick up during the festive season.
“Between October and November, (the cost of a basic basket of goods) increased by R1010.50 or 2.3 percent of the value of the basket. The total now stands at R4 018. It’s even scarier if we look back three months where it increased by R161.50 between September and November,” he told VOC.
Abrahams unpacked the details of the group’s latest study, which compares prices of 44 foods bought by low and working-class income households. Examples of what the monthly basket contains include: 30kg maize, 10kg rice, 10kg flour, 10kg sugar, 5kg sugar beans/samp, 5 litre cooking oil, 10kg potatoes, 10 kg onions, chicken portions, stock, soup, tea, milk and vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, butternut and spinach.
The price of these items is tracked across four different areas in five cities in the country, namely: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Springbok.
“The difference in the cost of the baskets across these cities are not that big. The basket in CPT is R3 975, Johannesburg is R4 005, Durban is R4 022, Pietermaritzburg is R3 742 and Springbok is the most expensive at R 4 425,” he said.
Abrahams explained that their data, historically, shows an increase from September and October, “which extends right through until January and then it begins to stabilize in February”.
“Retail is telling us they are not marking up for the festive season. But what we are seeing are increasing prices. The question is, are we seeing increases in the raw material?” he questioned.
According to Abrahams, South Africa’s agriculture has done well this year.
“During this lockdown period, SA has had a boom in our agriculture. Actually, our agriculture has never done as well. Mazie, wheat… it’s been a very good year, so we should be able to see prices coming down.”
“The price of potatoes increased R10 month on month, which totalled a 35 % increase in value over the past 3 months. This is connected to the fact that there have been climatic difficulties in Limpopo, where most of our potatoes come from,” he pointed out.
Abrahams recommended that government begin looking at better ways of ensuring that citizens have enough funds to cover the basics. Job creation and sustainable income, he said, are key factors.
“Almost 50 percent of people of employable age don’t have a job. even if we create a million jobs in the next two years, which we’re not going to do, it’s a drop in the bucket. Our recommendation is that government need to start investing in people, through means of grants, to create their own livelihood.”
“If there is someone who is good at welding (then) let’s give him some money so he can start welding. Instead of him standing looking for a job on a corner. This is how we create livelihood that can eventually sustain the population.”
Abrahams pointed out that South Africans are more consumers than they are sustainable farmers. He urged the public to spend wisely- only on essential needs.
“When you get into the store- only buy what’s on your list. Don’t buy anything else! We are being enticed to buy things we don’t need. we go into debt for things we don’t need. Be disciplined,” he said.