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Eight basic food items that are making life so expensive right now

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Oct 29, 2021

Households are battling to put food on the table and the brunt of the anxiety regarding rising food prices falls on the shoulders of poor women who are struggling to source nutritious meals for their families.

But what are the food items that have increased in price the most during October 2021?

The Pietermartizburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group’s October 2021 Household Affordability Index includes a list of eight food items which have experienced massive price hikes over just the past month. A total of 22 out of 44 items in the basic Household Food Basket increased in price during the month.

But according to the price index the main culprits that are driving the average household food basket upwards include: 

Potatoes (up 41% or R34,07, with total cost of R116,92 for 10kg) Butternut (up 56% or R46,86, with total cost of R131,24 for 10kg) Tomatoes (up 27% or R21,84, with total cost of R103,81 for 6kg)   Maize meal (up 4% or R10,53, with total cost of R248,55 for 30kg) Full cream milk (up 4% or R3,24, with total cost of R81,01 for 6L) •Wors (up 4% or R4,45, with total cost of R125,11 for 2kg)                        Chicken livers (up 4% or R2,35, with total cost of R62,38 for 2kg)  Canned beans (up 4% or R2,38, with total cost of R69,50 for 6 x 410g cans)                                                                                                               

Women struggling to shop for basics

According to the PMBEJDG researchers these price increases make it extremely difficult for women to buy sufficient, quality fresh food to feed their families adequately.

“High increases on potatoes are a problem because potatoes are a key staple food, potatoes also provide substance in meal preparation. Women tell us that the quality of potatoes either in supermarkets or from street vendors are extremely poor,” PMBEJDG said.                                      

“They are old and hard and dry and small and generally terrible. Potatoes on the streets however are much cheaper, so, women still buy them and hope for the best. Women tell us that at the wildly expensive price of butternut right now, it is unlikely to be bought. Instead of butternut, carrots are well priced now, so women make do with carrots.”      

Tomatoes are very expensive but they are key to giving flavour to meals.                                                                                                     

“Women tell us they don’t buy tomatoes to keep, they just buy three or four tomatoes either in the supermarket or from local vendors, for meals that day and the next day. Because the food on our plates is so devoid of any difference and very bland, tomatoes at least add some taste,” the group said.

“Tomatoes, with onions and carrots, and potatoes are also important because the chicken portions women buy are said to be so dreadful and tasteless that you must cook chicken with vegetables,” the group said.                         

The higher maize meal price worries women because every family must buy maize meal. Maize meal must be in the home.                                   

Basic food sources like maize are also a problem for families

“Most families now eat maize meal from Monday to Sunday. Women deal with higher prices by buying cheaper brands, and smaller volumes (which they buy more frequently whenever money becomes available). Women say that buying like this makes them anxious, because without maize there is nothing in the home,” PMBEDJG said,                          

 “Wors is an important item in the home as it can be chopped up and is heavily spiced and fatty, so it tastes meaty, even though protein levels are low. Typically, wors will be looked for at cheaper prices over several stores, as families crave at least a trick of a meat taste. But we are hearing that some families are forgoing wors and instead buy beef liver and chicken liver – this too is expensive though,” the group said.

The drivers of the higher food prices in October 2021 are the massive electricity tariff hikes of June and July 2021 of around 14,59% which have firmly filtered down to the food value chains. Loadshedding, load reductions and random blackouts further add costs onto goods and services because alternative energy infrastructure is expensive. 

“Fuel prices continue rising. October further ushers in a new season, and many of our South African grown cereals and vegetables have already been harvested or are in the ground, waiting to be harvested in the Summer,” the PMBEJDG said.

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