It is becoming increasingly difficult to put food on the tables of lower-income households – basic food now cost 15% more than they did a year ago – and politics, the drought and the economy have been given the blame.
According to the 2016 Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action food price barometer annual report, food prices have sky rocketed.
The agency tracks the price of a basket of 36 basic food items that low-income households with seven members – the average household size for low-income urban households in Pietermaritzburg – buy as staples.
Director of the agency, Mervyn Abrahams, said that although the data is sourced in Pietermaritzburg, the data is used as a national indicator.
The report was released yesterday morning and coincides with World Food Day on October 16.
“Basically as a nation we source food from supermarkets and that is why the price of foods are so important in relation the household income,” Abrahams said.
Some of the increases between September 2015 and September 2016 include:
– 25kg Maize meal is up from R170.80 to R225.82
– 10kg white sugar is up from R106.81 to 136.82
– 4-litres of cooking oil. Up from R63.99 to R77.99
– 10kg potatoes are up from R30.50 to R51.20
The nationwide drought and high temperatures coupled with the high levels of unemployment are all contributing factors towards the steep incline in food prices over the past year.
“Women have expressed that they cannot make it through the month on the money they earn. They are really struggling to keep households functioning and put food on the table,” says the report.
“The problem is located in our politics and the way our economy is structured and performing. We have to find ways to put more money in people’s pockets to be able to afford goods and services, build resilience and absorb shocks. Households must be better supported to live at a basic level of dignity and to be able to afford a diversity of sufficient good quality nutritious food,” states the report.
Abrahams said that what has come out in the focus groups surrounding the income of households is that lower-income households, particularly those who are on social grants are not able to absorb the costs of the increasing food prices.
“As a result you are finding that households either go into greater debt in order to continue purchasing food or they are cutting down on the amount of food they consume,” Abrahams said.
With such a huge strain on households to keep up with the rising costs of food, the nation is faced with effects such as malnutrition and low energy levels according to Abrahams.
“We are not seeing people dying in the streets, but we are seeing an increase in non-commutable diseases. If we don’t have sufficient nutritious food, we don’t have energy and this then affects workplace productivity.”