Food price increases affect poorest of poor

2016-04-27 06:00
PHOTO: supplied The increase in food prices has caused poor families to sacrifice payments for municipal services in favour for groceries for their families.

PHOTO: supplied The increase in food prices has caused poor families to sacrifice payments for municipal services in favour for groceries for their families.

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INCREASING food prices lead to the poor not paying for municipal services and transport in favour of groceries.

This is the outcome of research done by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) on its monthly food price barometer.

March statistics show that the food baskets increased to R1 869.39, 58% of R3 200, which is regarded as the typical family income for in Pietermaritzburg.

Pacsa researcher Julie Smith said the cost of the Pacsa food basket increased by 14.5% or R237 year-on-year, from R1 632.85 in March 2015 to R1 869.39 in March.

Pacsa has been monitoring food prices since 2006 and the food basket includes 36 food products for a household of seven.

The food basket consists of 25kg maize meal, 10kg rice, 10kg cake flour, five kilograms samp, 10kg white sugar, five kilograms sugar beans, 4 litre cooking oil, 2 litre maas, two heads of cabbage, 10kg onion and 10kg potatoes.

Smith said households on low and capped incomes prioritise expenditures­ because they struggle to make it through the month on their income.

“Households need to secure goods and services to live at a basic level of dignity.

“Households prioritise transport to get to work and school, education, electricity and burial insurance.

“In this mix, households prioritise the repayment of debt because this enables the securing of credit, going forward.

“What is extremely important to note is that food is typically one of the last expenses households prioritise because it is one of the few expenses households can control.

“Because food is last in the line of expenditure, the food budget is low and households typically underspend on food.

“Food runs out two to three weeks into the month. Debt is taken to cover food shortfalls,” she said.

Smith said the increase in food prices sees poor people faced with low income levels, which are not increasing amid massive hikes in food prices and other goods and services, eating cheaper and less nutritious food and taking on debt to pay for food.

“Many households are now reaching a critical point where the strategy of cutting back or taking on increasing levels of expensive and unsecured debt is damaging and resulting in serious negative implications for health, nutritional status, childhood development, productivity levels and household debt levels,” said Smith.

As a short-term solution, Smith said there should be immediate food aid interventions coupled with increasing social grants and public sector wages in accordance with levels of food inflation.

For a long-term solution she said the economic growth must provide decent and living wages to allow households the possibility of being fully human and living a life of dignity.

Msunduzi R1,9 billion debt

The Msunduzi Municipality’s debt has been increasing over the years due to government departments, businesses and residential customers that are reluctant to pay for services.

By October 2015, the Msunduzi debt was a R1,903 billion, and residents contributed R1,213 of that. According to the financial services November­ 2015 report, the latter figure increased by one percent from last year September.

As a solution to the problem, council­ appointed a panel of seven attorneys­ and two debt collectors, who would collect arrears from debtors, and a debt recovery team was formed.

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