The food basket in December cost R577.24 more than 2021

The average December grocery basket costs R577.24 more than in December 2021, with cornmeal, cake flour, samp, cooking oil, onions, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, cabbage and bread costing significantly more. This means these nutritious foods are likely to disappear from the plates of low-income consumers.

The December 2022 Household Affordability Index, which collects grocery price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcher shops in low-income areas of Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Springbok, shows that the average household grocery basket cost has increased by R577. 24 (13.5%) from R4 275.94 in December 2021 to R4 853.18 in December 2022.

The survey is being conducted for the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group by women living in low-income communities where they need to find the best prices to support their families. The basket is for a family of four for a month.

The average price of R4 853.18 in December increased by R17.21 (0.4%) from R4 835.96 in November 2022. Foods whose price increased by 4% or more in December include frozen chicken portions, onions , tomatoes and spinach , oranges, apples, tea and canned anchovies.

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Biggest increases in grocery basket

The impact of the war in Ukraine and other factors on food prices becomes clear when looking at the price differences between December 2021 and December 2022. The most important increases were noted for:

  • Onions (99% more expensive)
  • Cake Flour (34%)
  • cooking oil (30%)
  • Sample (28%)
  • Corn flour (23%)
  • Frozen chicken portions (10%), chicken feet (15%) and chicken liver (14%)
  • Stock Cubes (15%)
  • Tea (11%)
  • whole milk (14%)
  • Waste (12%)
  • Tomatoes (23%)
  • Carrots (23%)
  • Spinach (26%)
  • Green pepper (23%)
  • Canned anchovies (13%)
  • Canned Beans (11%)
  • Oranges (10%)
  • Polony (17%)
  • Apricot Jam (15%)
  • White bread (18%) and black bread (16%)

In December 2022, food basket prices decreased in Johannesburg (-0.7%), Springbok (-2.6%) and Pietermaritzburg (-0.1%). Grocery basket prices rose in Durban (1.8%) and Cape Town (1.6%).

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A nutritious diet for children

In December 2022, the average cost of feeding a child a nutritious staple was R843.47, which was R4.82 more than in November and R95.52 more than in December 2021. Considering that the child benefit grant from 480 Rand 28% below the food poverty line of R663 and 43% below the average cost of feeding a child a nutritious staple, the poverty spiral directly impacts children in low-income households.

The group has in the past lobbied for the government to allocate some type of additional grant each January to help parents with their children’s new school year expenses, giving a stronger foundation for education support and at the same time reduce the debt incurred at the beginning of the year follows parents throughout the year.

“This special back-to-school grant, earmarked directly for the new school year, would provide a targeted investment in improved educational outcomes while relieving some of the financial pressure on parents.”

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What employees have to pay

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) was R23.19 per hour and R185.52 for an 8-hour day. In December, with 19 working days, the maximum NMW for a general worker was 3 524.88 R3. Spread over a working-class family of 4, the NMW is reduced to R881.22 per person, below the upper poverty line of R1,417 per person per month and the lower poverty line of R945.

Using Pietermaritzburg-based figures for electricity and transport and the average figure for a minimum food basket for a family of four, the group calculates that electricity and transport account for 61.2% of a general laborer’s wages.

Low-income families can only buy groceries after money for transport and electricity has been paid or set aside, leaving just R1 369.38 for groceries and everything else. This means that working-class families will underspend on food by at least 58.6% in December 2022.

“In this scenario, there is no way a worker can buy adequate nutritious food for her family. If the R1 369.38 has all been spent on buying groceries we see R342.34 per person for a family of four. The food poverty line is R663.”

The group says the NMW is a poverty wage that reduces workplace productivity, slows economic growth, harms workers’ health, jeopardizes the future of workers’ children, leaves workers vulnerable and leaves workers in debt.

“The NMW is underestimated and insufficient to cover workers’ three core expenses of food, transportation and electricity.”

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