SA's poor hit hard as basic food prices escalate 11.6% in a year

30 July 2020 - 10:55 By Suthentira Govender
The cost of a basic food basket has increased by more than 11% in one year, a household affordability index has found.
The cost of a basic food basket has increased by more than 11% in one year, a household affordability index has found.
Image: Picture: 123RF/RICHARD THOMAS

The cost of a basic household food basket has increased by 11.6% since July last year, hitting SA's low-income earners the hardest.

This is according to the latest household food index compiled by civil society initiative the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group.

“The household food index is designed with women living on low incomes to provide a sense of what the food baskets of low-income households cost in Pietermaritzburg and is specifically designed to measure food price inflation as experienced by households living on low incomes."

Although based in Pietermaritzburg, the index provides a picture of food price inflation as experienced by low-income households throughout SA, said the group's Mervyn Abrahams.

According to the latest index report, the cost of the household food basket increased by R355.21 (11.6%) from R3,057.93 in July 2019 to R3,413.14 in July 2020.

Nineteen of the 38 foods in the total household food basket are subject to VAT.

“Foods subject to VAT make up 55% of the total cost of the household food basket. VAT on the total household food basket came to R242.85 in July 2020. This means 7.1% of the household food basket is made up of VAT.”

Poorer households are also feeling the brunt of increases in prices of household domestic and personal hygiene products.

“The cost of the household domestic and personal hygiene products basket increased by R46.23 (7.4%) from R628.82 in July 2019 to R675.05 in July 2020.

“ These products are critical for safe hygiene and overall health and wellbeing and the money for them is sourced from the food budget.

“These products compete with food,” said the report.

The report showed that families living on low incomes were underspending on basic nutritional food.

“In July 2020 the difference in cost between the foods which families living on low incomes try to buy each month (the household food basket) and the foods which families would like to buy and should buy to meet basic nutrition (a basic nutritional food basket) was R3,413.14 vs. R4,381.18.

“It means that in July 2020, families with seven members underspent on basic nutritional food by 22% (R968.04).

“The food poverty line calculated by Stats SA is R561 a person per month (latest April 2019).

“In July 2020 the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet for a month was R638.40.

“The child support grant of R440 is set below the food poverty line of R561, and further below the average cost of R638.40 to secure a basic nutritious diet for a child in July 2020,” the report found.

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