By Vernon Pillay for IOL
The April 2022 Household Affordability Index, which tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries, in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Springbok, shows that in April 2022 the average cost of the Household Food Basket is R4 542.93.
Food baskets increased in all areas tracked:
- The Joburg basket increased by R65.86 (1,5%), and R242.49 (5,6%) year-on-year, to R4 563.09 in April 2022
- The Durban basket increased by R138,27 (3,1%) and R409.21 (9,8%) year-on-year, to R4 583.05 in April 2022
- The Cape Town basket increased by R75.90 (1,7%) and R308.67 (7,5%) year-on-year, to R4 430.42 in April 2022
- The Springbok basket increased by R225.37 (4,8%) and R449.46 (10%) year-on-year, to R4 960.01 in April 2022
- The Maritzburg basket increased by R98.31 (2,3%) and R449.65 (11,6%) year-on-year, to R4 335.83 in April 2022
35/44 foods in the basket increased in price.
The significant increases (5% and above) are: cooking oil, potatoes, beef, fish, spinach, cabbage, green pepper, tinned pilchards, bananas, polony, and apricot jam. Increases, also including maize meal, cake flour, rice, white sugar, samp, eggs, milk, frozen chicken portions, margarine, peanut butter, bread; and curry powder, stock cubes.
The cost of the household food basket continues to rise. Factors (global and local) impacting on the plate include the war in the Ukraine, the high brent crude oil price, the high fuel price, and a weak exchange rate. Much higher production and logistical costs will continue to drive prices upwards and are likely to continue rising for the rest of 2022. The recent flooding in KwaZulu-Natal (not accounted for in this April data – prices collected before the rains) will add to these increases going forward.
Statistics South Africa’s latest Consumer Price Index for March 2022 shows that Headline inflation was 5,9%, and for the lowest expenditure quintiles 1-3, it is 6,7%, 6,4% and 5,7% respectively. CPI Food inflation was 6,6%.
Responses by retailers
At the retail level, supermarkets have responded by rounding on the higher food prices by bringing in a lot of new cheaper brands, offering shop brands, offering specials (some unbelievable), offering ‘combos’ (maize meal, rice, flour, sugar, oil; potatoes, onions, carrots etc.), offering store cards, according to the study.
The index goes on to say that, most families now only buy the basic of the most basic foods. There is nothing to cut back. There is no behavioural change to make. There is no space to manoeuvre on the family plate. The space that is left is on finding a cheaper priced food. This space is the domain of the retailers.
Household domestic and personal hygiene products
The April 2022 Household Domestic & Personal Hygiene Index shows an increase of R26.44 (3,5%) month-on-month, with the total average cost of the products being R785,84 in April 2022.
This is a big monthly jump in the index. Increases were across the board, and included: green bar soap (9%), washing powder (10%) and bath soap (5%); toilet paper, toothpaste, Vaseline, cream, Handy Andy, dishwashing liquid, deodorant, and sanitary pads. The escalation in price of green bar soap, in particular, has raised concern. This long bar of magic green soap can do almost anything related to cleaning of bodies, clothes, dishes, homes; and simply must be bought.
The cost of basic hygiene products is high. These products compete in the household purse with food. These products are essential for good health and hygiene. Not much notice is taken on how women find the money to buy these products, and yet these are essential for good health, and hygiene; but also, in having a sense of dignity, being able to function in society and being accepted.
Year-on-year the household domestic and personal hygiene products index increased by R68.07 (9,5%) bringing the total average cost of basic household domestic and personal hygiene products to R785.84.
The National Minimum Wage is R23,19 an hour and R185,52 for an 8-hour day. April 2022, with a short working-day month of 18 days, the maximum National Minimum Wage for a General Worker is R3 339.36.
Transport to work and back will cost a worker an average of R1 152.00. Electricity will cost a worker an average of R731.50. A basket of basic but nutritious food, for a family of 4 persons, will cost a worker R3 139.37. Together these three core expenses come to R5 022.28.
Because food is bought after monies for transport and electricity have been paid for or set aside, in April 2022, the index calculates that workers’ families will underspend on food by a minimum of 53,6% this month
The study goes on to add that the majority of South African workers do not earn enough money to cover their basic expenses each month.
It means that in a crisis, there is no savings buffer. The spikes in the food basket are not being absorbed by workers, because there is no extra money to pay for the higher prices. Instead, workers cut back further on their family’s basic consumption, get sick more often, are more stressed and distracted, are less productive; and have less money to spend, and spread in the broader economy.