By Lee-Yandra Paulsen
In October 2023, the Household Affordability Index report reveals a concerning trend – the average cost of the Household Food Basket in South Africa has reached R5,297.58. This significant increase has raised alarm bells, drawing attention to the challenges faced by many South African families.
The Programme Coordinator at the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group, Mervyn Abrahams, noted that over the past few months, South Africa witnessed small incremental increases in the cost of the food basket. However, the situation took a worrisome turn in October, with a sudden 2.8% jump in the basket’s cost, equating to an additional R141.81. This brings the total cost of the food basket to R5,297, a spike primarily attributed to specific food items.
Supply Chain Challenges
One key contributor to this surge in prices is the dramatic increase in the price of rice. In just one month, the cost of rice surged by nearly R9 for a 10-kilogram bag. Abrahams explained that this spike is linked to India’s decision to halt its rice exports. Although South Africa primarily imports rice from Indonesia, the global rice market is experiencing turbulence due to reduced supply sources. The ripple effect is that consumers now face higher rice prices.
Another staple, potatoes, has also seen a significant price hike. The cost of a 10-kilogram bag of potatoes increased by an average of R41 in the past month. Abrahams attributes this to a shortage caused by farmers planting less than what is required.
“The basket has massively increased, and it is really worrying because people just don’t have the money to spend with these additional prices,” Abrahams expressed, highlighting the burden these places on South African households.
Fuel Price Impact
Abrahams emphasized a crucial point regarding fuel prices and their impact on food costs. While an increase in fuel prices tends to drive up food prices, the reverse isn’t necessarily true. He pointed out that when fuel prices decrease, it doesn’t automatically translate to reduced food prices. Instead, the benefits of fuel price decrease primarily reach consumers who use cars.