Food hikes hit vendors hard

2008-04-02 00:00

STREET vendors who sell cooked food are the latest to complain about rocketing food prices, which are a result of ever increasing petrol prices and a spiralling inflation rate.

The vendors are stuck between a rock and a hard place as their customers seem to not accept increases, despite the fact that supermarkets and wholesalers have doubled prices.

“I was making about R7 000 a month last year, but this year I’m only making about R4 000,” said Bongiwe Memela, who is among many selling food at the Masukwana Taxi Rank.

Weekend Witness reported recently that the prices of basic foods such as cooking oil, vegetables, milk and mealie meal have increased by between 20% and 66% this year. This is the kind of food that vendors need in order to run their businesses.

It has also been reported that even non-governmental organisations are struggling to continue with their feeding schemes for poor residents.

Memela said the price of beef has increased even more dramatically than staples. Previously, R50 bought enough meat for 15 servings of curry, but now this serves just seven.

“I used to pay R25 for five litres of cooking oil, which has now increased to R80. As result, I now buy only 500 ml, which has also increased from R4 to R13. I’m also forced to re-use the cooking oil in order to save money,” said Memela.

Memela, who is renting a flat for R1 600 in the city, said she is now also paying R49 for a 12,5 kg pocket of mealie meal, which used to cost R23. Her 10 kg pocket of rice has also increased to R40.

Despite the difficulties that street vendors are facing, they have no choice but to continue serving their customers in order to make a living.

John Dladla, who has been a vendor since 1983, said that increasing his prices would be deadly to his business. “My plate of food is R12 and it will remain so, because if I increase it, my customers will run away,” said Dladla.

Thuleleni Zamisa said: “We just have to accept that we will never make the same profit as before. Times have changed, but I will continue with my business because I have no other job to support my three children, my mother and my father.”

Streetnet International, a Durban-based NGO that looks after the interests of street vendors, has called on government to help the vendors cut the costs of running their businesses.

“Municipalities should establish warehouses where farmers, whether small or big, can do direct trading, because that would be cheaper for the vendors … Also, the fact that food chain stores are spreading all over makes it difficult for vendors to determine their prices,” said Gaby Bikombo, who works for Streetnet International.

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