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Here’s how much more you’re paying for food in South Africa compared to a year ago

| Economic factors

The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD) has published its latest Household Affordability Index, showing how the price of food in South Africa has increased over the last year.

The index tracks two baskets of foods – being a basic food basket needed for a family to survive, as well as a nutritionally complete food basket, which contains the foods needed for family to gain all the nutrients they need to lead healthy lives.

According to the index, the essential food basket has increased by 3.6% over the last year, totalling R1,289.89 in September 2019, with increases largely limited due to the zero-rating of VAT for many essential products.

The complete food basket increased by 3.5% to R3,127.21. Month on month (August 2019 vs September 2019) the basket increased by 1.9%. These increases represent a monetary value of R106.93 and R59.69, respectively.

Food price increases

Price changes in the the food basket were mixed, ranging between decreases of 27% (for carrots) to increases of 37% (for tomatoes).

Notably, these more ‘extreme’ price increases are on food items that are zero-rated for VAT.

Year on year, zero-rated foods in the basket decreased by 0.4% year on year, while the foods subject to VAT in the basket increased by 7.1%.

“Foods subject to VAT make up 55% of the total cost of the household food basket. VAT on the total household food basket came to R223.45 in September 2019. This means 7.1% of the household food basket is made up of VAT,” the PMBEJD said.

Hygiene prices

The PMBEJD also includes a basket of non-food items in its domestic and personal hygiene index.

This basket has decreased in price over the last year, seeing an overall reduction of 0.8%.

People living on R19 a day

The purpose of the index is to show exactly how the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people struggle to meet the requirements to eat nutritionally complete meals and live a dignified life.

According to the PMBEJD’s data, the average wage in South Africa is R3,300 a month, and this has to support four people.

A nutritionally complete basket of food for a family of four comes to R2,327.17 a month, leaving very little (R973) for other costs, such as transport, basic insurance, education, clothing, school fees, etc.

“The tally of the cost of some typical monthly household expenses which households living on low incomes tell us they reasonably expect to cover is R7,649.89 in September 2019. It is clear that on low wages and low grants, these expense costs are well beyond the affordability capacity of most households living on low incomes,” the group said.

The group noted that 56% of South Africans (30.4 million people) currently live below the upper-bound poverty line of R1,227 a month, with a quarter (25.2% or 13.8 million) living on even less (R561 a month).

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