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Food prices in South Africa: 2016 vs 2017

| Economic factors

The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) has released its food barometer for January 2017, showing how food prices in its nutritional basket have changed over the past 12 months.

Year-on-year, the Pacsa food basket – which tracks a nutritionally complete set of products – increased by R295.91 (16.5%) from R1,797.04 in January 2016 to R2,092.95 in January 2017.

As many as 31 out of 36 foods across all food categories increased in January, the group said.

Notably, the January 2017 prices of all the foods in the ‘big food’ category increased (25kg maize meal, 10kg rice, 10kg cake flour, 10kg white sugar and 4 L cooking oil).

According to Pacsa, women in low-income households identify that these foods must be secured every month for basic energy and enable meals to be cooked. In total, they came to R634.10 in January 2017.

This is an increase of R101.86 or 19.1% y/y (R532.24 vs. R634.10). The price of the ‘big foods’ determines dietary diversity on the plate.



Food prices putting livelihoods at risk

High increases means that low-income households cut-back on foods which are important for balanced nutrition, such as meats, fish and eggs, dairy and vegetables, the group said.

“High increases on the big foods results in compromised nutrition; which impact most severely on women because women eat last and make sure nutritionally-rich foods, when they are short, are prioritized for children and men in the house,” Pacsa said.

Children and the elderly in poor households are at particular risk, with the current 2017 value of a Child Support Grant (R360 per month) and old-age pension (R1,510 per month) unable to keep up with food price inflation.

The annual increment on the Child Support Grant was R30 (9.1%) and on the pension was R90 (6.3%) – in comparison, the cost of feeding a child aged between 10-13 years old a basic but nutritionally complete monthly diet increased by 11.6% or R66.48 year-on-year, from R573.71 to R640.19.



In the scenarios above, Pacsa uses the proposed lowest incomes from various players in society in the wider debate on a national minimum wage. The group maintains that R8,000 per month is the amount households need to live a dignified life.

Household A: R1,800 – Business’s proposal to set the National Minimum Wage level at the lowest existing sectoral determination.

Household B: R2,230 – 1 old-age pension of R1 510 + 2 child support grants (R360 x 2) of R720 (National Treasury, 2016. Budget Speech: 22).

Household C: R2,362 – the average minimum wage set by the Employment Conditions Commission across sectoral determinations for 2014 was R2,362.36.

Household D: R3,500 – the National Minimum Wage level proposed by the Nedlac Advisory Panel.

Household E: R4,500 = Cosatu has called for a National Minimum Wage of between R4,500 and R6,000.

Household F: R6,000 – see above.

Household G: R8,000 – where we think the National Minimum Wage should be located if households are to have the possibility of living at a basic level of dignity.

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