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Pietermaritzburg Household Affordability Report Reveals Mixed Trends in Food Prices

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By Lee-Yandra Paulsen

The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMEJD) regularly monitors the purchasing habits of households and analysis the impact of rising costs on their economic well-being.

In their latest report for June 2023, the group’s Programme Coordinator, Mervyn Abrahams, shed light on the affordability of essential goods and services. While there was a slight decline in the overall cost of the food basket, a closer examination of the data reveals a more complex picture.

“The food basket witnessed a modest decrease of approximately R15.00, equivalent to a 0.3% decline. This seemingly positive trend indicates a slight decrease in the overall cost of essential food items,” said Abrahams.

However, Abrahams cautioned that there is a hidden issue within the data. Despite the decline in certain items like maize meal, vegetables, milk, and eggs, the prices of core foods which form the foundation of most households’ diets, remained persistently high. In fact, these core food items experienced an increase over the past month.

The PMEJD’s analysis revealed an average increase of around R34.00 in core food prices. Rice, onions, sugar, potatoes, cheaper cuts of meat, and chicken are among the essential items that have become more expensive. These price hikes in core food items can have a significant impact on households since they are purchased on a monthly basis.

The report also drew attention to an upcoming challenge in July, with most municipalities planning to implement substantial electricity tariff increases. These increases range from 12% to 18% depending on the location, surpassing the inflation rate. PMEJD predicts that these rising electricity costs will directly affect the food budget of households, potentially exacerbating food insecurity.

“The rise in rice prices can be attributed to importation, as the weakening of the rand against the dollar due to geopolitical factors has made it more expensive. Surprisingly, some locally produced foods have also seen price increases, suggesting that there may be issues within the food value chain beyond the usual challenges of load-shedding,” said Abrahams.

The Pietermaritzburg Household Affordability Report for June 2023 highlights both positive and concerning trends in food prices. While there has been a slight decline in the overall cost of the food basket, core food items crucial for households have experienced stubbornly high prices. Moreover, the impending electricity tariff hikes pose additional financial burdens for families, potentially undermining food security.

VOC News

Photo: Pixabay

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