Pacsa reports high food prices Cost of other ‘big’ foods:

2016-10-26 06:00
PHOTO: NOKUTHULA KHANYILE Pacsa Research and Advocacy Co-ordinator, Julie Smith.

PHOTO: NOKUTHULA KHANYILE Pacsa Research and Advocacy Co-ordinator, Julie Smith.

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FOOD prices have seen an increase of 15% in the past year with low-income households feeling the pinch most. This was revealed by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) last Thursday at the Imperial Hotel in its 2016 food price barometer.

The report, which tracks food inflation prices from September 2015 to September 2016 in Pietermaritzburg, states that the Pacsa food basket, which includes 36 basic foods low-income households try to buy each month, has increased by R243.63 from R1 616.97 to R1 860.60.

Although the report was conducted in Pietermaritzburg, Pacsa’s Research and Advocacy Co-ordinator Julie Smith said this barometer painted a national picture.

She said the increase was three to four times higher compared to the past year and it was notably sharp from November 2015 when the effects of the drought started impacting.

According to the report compiled through interviewing 51 women from Mpumuza, Snathing, Haniville and Mpumelelo, it is becoming more difficult for them to put food on the table as their monthly wage was no longer sufficient.

“Most black South African households make a minimum of R2 900 a month with many relying on just one wage earner supporting two or more persons. Putting food on the table is becoming difficult as it takes up to 64% of the wage. Also of great concern, is that households are no longer prioritising food and they have had to cut back on nutrient-rich foods.

“The strategies of coping are now damaging and putting the health of families in jeopardy. Low income budget households prioritise expenditures such as transport, education, electricity, burial insurance and repayment of debt because credit is essential to try and get through the month. The food budget is very low and competes intensely with other costs,” said Smith.

Pacsa findings indicate that because most households under-spend on food it tends to run out mid-month and a loan is taken to cover shortfalls.

Smith said the reason food inflation increase is sitting at 15% is because 25 out of the 36 foods in the Pacsa basket have increased significantly. On 25 out of the 36 foods, the average increase was 22% within a year. She said out of the “big” foods, maize meal, rice, cake flour, white sugar and cooking oil, which are the most important foods in the low-income households, were the biggest driver of inflation on the basket. A bag of maize meal increased by up to 32.2% or R55.02 year-on-year, taking the total cost to R225.82 in September up from R170.80 a year ago.

Smith said the food price hikes have also put pressure on households that rely on social grants to put food on the table and that the government needed use projections on food price inflation to determine annual wage and social grants increments.

“The problem is located in our politics and the way our economy is structured and performing. We have to try and find ways to put more money in people’s pockets to be able to afford goods and services.

“Our view is the state must intervene, we need to find a way to increase wage level and social grants and also ensure zero-rated foods are affordable and not raise VAT levels on food.”

Cooking oil
increased by 22% from R63.99 to R77.99

Rice
increased by 19% from R67.16 to R80.16

Cake flour
increased by 12% from R73.15 to R81.66

White sugar
increased by 28% from R106.81 to R136.82

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