While inflation seems to be steadily increasing, the sharp April rise to 4.4% from 3.2% in March has largely been driven by transport costs and food prices. According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the year-on-year increase in food and non-alcoholic beverage prices was 6.3%, while transport prices rose by 10.6%.
However, the reality is that food prices at the tills have increased sharply over the past two years. A comparison of 2019 and 2021 food prices, conducted by FoodForward SA, shows that basic food prices have increased by 9.83%. FoodForward SA conducts a Food Price Comparison Review every two years, comparing the prices of more than 60 basic grocery products to monitor fluctuations. Rising food prices are a clear indication that access to basic foods is worsening for those with limited or no income what is also referred to as money-metric poverty.
Access to food inadequate or severe
According to Stats SA’s 2019 General Household Survey conducted before the pandemic 28% of South Africans are regarded as poor, because they are living on less than R2,500 per month. Survey participants in this category described their access to food as inadequate or severe. The median wage in South Africa is R3,300, and each wage supports an average of 3.5 people – which equates to about R30 per person per day. The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) found that in May 2019, a family of four would need to spend R2,524 a month on basic foods. This is about 32% of a household’s monthly spend, which means that a family of four would need to earn R7,800 per month just to afford basic food groceries. BFAP notes with concern that more than half of our country’s population are unable to afford this.
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