Food costs hit PMB’s poor

2011-10-18 00:00

POOR families have to eat less or buy less nutritious food as food prices continue to rise steadily, the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness (Pacsa) said yesterday.

The agency was delivering its annual food prices report. The report looks at the increases in prices of 13 basic household items to feed a family of seven and evaluates the impact of increases on the diets of predominantly poor communities.

The agency’s Mervyn Abrahams said the research showed that prices continue to increase to the extent that food could become unaffordable for families surviving on grants.

He said that from January to September the basket of basic foods increased from R1 286,56 to R1 422,92, a difference of 10,6%.

He said a family earning R3 000 would be spending 47% of its budget on food, while a household with R2 500 would spend 76%.

However, a household living on grants would spend 125% of its budget for the same basket, meaning that its members would have to choose which food items to buy.

“The most common survival strategy in this situation is that families buy and eat less food, which affects their productivity, or they will buy less expensive food, which then affects their nutrition.”

Professor Ayalneh Bogale, a director at the African Centre for Food Security at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the increases in food prices continue to push many communities to the abyss of poverty. Recent statistics show that the figure has reached one billion communities worldwide.

In Africa, the number has increased by 50 million to a total of 290 million, Bogale said.

In Africa, with the exception of Ghana, which is showing signs of combating poverty through innovations in agriculture, the situation is worrying because in some countries poverty has reportedly reached 50%.

Bogale said that chief among the concerns over food price increases is the conversion of food to biofuel, leaving less food for consumption, the restriction of international trade, market manipulation by big producers and the effects of climate change.

Among the solutions available are to develop reserves of food, coming up with proper policy formulations, eliminating harmful trade restrictions and corruption, investing in agriculture and dealing with problems created by climate change.

• thansanqam@witness.co.za

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