‘Food costs less, but poor still struggle’

2010-10-19 00:00

THE average price of a monthly food basket as at January 2010 has declined by R155,63 or 15% year on year to R873,97

This is the finding of a survey of food prices conducted by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness (Pacsa).

However, Pacsa emphasised that the decline in food prices has not automatically led to greater household food security because the prices of other products and services have shot up during this period.

What’s more, the agency said, the average price of the food basket remains much higher than the levels experienced in 2007.

In releasing its Food Basket Report for 2009, Pacsa said yesterday that the average monthly basket, comprising 21 basic food items, was R873,97 in January 2010 compared with R1 029,60 in January 2009.

“Price increases were particularly severe in the latter part of 2007 into 2009, a period that coincided with a global food price crisis … food prices at the global level increased at an alarming rate, causing the steepest rise in food prices since the 1970s.

“During 2009, prices of the commodities in Pacsa’s food basket started to stabilise and decline, but it is stabilising at a much higher level than the pre-2007 period. This decline in prices is seen in most of the commodities in the food basket,” Pacsa said.

The organisation attributed the decline in the price of the food basket to softer local and global agricultural commodity prices, which followed lower costs of basic inputs such as fuel and fertilizer.

“The easing of droughts in areas of South Africa and Australia has meant greater outputs of maize and rice, bringing the prices of these commodities down.”

However, Pacsa said, household food security has not been enhanced. “The decline in food prices coincided with increases in other household expenditures and the economic recession and unemployment, which increased household vulnerability. Poorer households are still struggling to access sufficient food.” — WR.

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