South Africa’s Food Crisis: 9 Items Witness Massive Price Surges

  • Escalating Prices: Essential food items in South Africa, notably potatoes, eggs, and rice, have witnessed alarming price surges, with some items increasing by over 20%, causing significant strain on household budgets.
  • Regional Variances: Different regions in South Africa experienced diverse trends in food basket costs. While some areas like Durban and Springbok faced notable monthly and yearly increases, others such as Joburg and Mtubatuba saw declines or minimal growth.
  • Economic Challenges: The price surges have exacerbated economic challenges for households, particularly those living below the poverty line, highlighting the urgent need for measures to address affordability and access to essential food items across the nation.
Food Crisis

In a recent report by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group (PMBEJD), alarming figures showcase the escalating costs of essential food items across South Africa. The household food basket data for November 2023 soared to R5,314.63, signaling a concerning trend for consumers grappling with economic strains.

The PMBEJD’s analysis reveals a month-on-month increase of 0.3%, equivalent to R17.05. However, the year-on-year surge paints a graver picture, with prices skyrocketing by R478.67, marking a staggering 9.9% rise from the previous R4,835.58.

This surge eclipses the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for food, outstripping the recorded 8.7% CPI in October and indicating intensifying economic pressures for households.

The food basket monitored by PMBEJD encompasses 44 essential items commonly purchased by South African households monthly. While it represents a lower-income basket, it mirrors the expenditure pattern of a majority of households across the nation.

It’s a stark reminder that about 55% of South Africans exist below the upper-bound poverty line of R1,558 per month, underlining the significant impact of these price surges on vulnerable communities.

Among the tracked food items, only a handful remained stable or decreased in price, while a substantial 40 items experienced price escalations, underscoring the widespread nature of this issue.

Notably, 19 food items witnessed double-digit growth, with nine items enduring alarming increases exceeding 20%. Potatoes exhibited an alarming 92% surge, followed closely by eggs at 68%.

The stark rise in potato prices, nearly double from the previous year, owes itself partly to a 24% decline in potato volumes due to load shedding’s impact on irrigation, as highlighted by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP).

Egg prices, on the other hand, faced considerable inflation amid the Avian Influenza outbreak, presenting challenges in importation compared to chicken meat, leading to price discrepancies, as noted by BFAP.

Meanwhile, rice prices show signs of stabilizing post import restrictions from the producing country, albeit at a higher cost, as the PMBEJD’s observations suggest.

Furthermore, the group notes an upward trend in Frozen chicken portions in key regions like Durban, Cape Town, and Pietermaritzburg, coinciding with the broader bird flu and chicken crisis.

Regional disparities paint a varied picture of the economic impact, with some cities witnessing contrasting trends. Durban, Springbok, and Pietermaritzburg experienced basket increases, while Joburg, Cape Town, and Mtubatuba faced declines or minimal growth.

In Joburg, a monthly decrease of R98.60 (-1.8%) was recorded, although the year-on-year increase stands at a significant 10.2%. Conversely, Durban saw a 1.8% monthly increase and a 9.1% annual rise.

Cape Town registered a slight monthly decrease (-0.3%) but showed an 11.6% increase year-on-year. Springbok exhibited a monthly rise of 2.1% and an annual growth of 9.2%, while Pietermaritzburg experienced increases of 2.3% and 8.3% respectively.

Mtubatuba witnessed a notable 2.2% monthly decrease but a substantial 9.7% surge in prices year-on-year, emphasizing the fluctuating nature of regional economic pressures.

As South Africans grapple with these concerning price hikes, the challenges of affordability and access to essential foods persist, necessitating comprehensive measures to address the deepening economic strains faced by households across the nation.

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