October Household Affordability Index and World Food Day
We commemorate World Food Day 2020 in the midst of a pandemic, which requires proper nutrition to build strong and resilient immune systems to resist contracting Covid19 and recover if we do contract it. However, we have seen food prices in supermarkets rise substantially over the past several months making it very difficult for ordinary South Africans living on low incomes to afford sufficient and nutritious food. Job losses and cuts in income have put severe pressure on the household food purse. Women are struggling to feed their families and keep families safe from Covid19.
The main findings from the October Household Affordability Index, which now tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Springbok and Pietermaritzburg shows that:
The average cost of the Household Food Basket is R3 916,72 in October 2020. The Household Food Basket increased by R60,39 (1,6%) between September 2020 and October 2020. [See attached October Household Affordability Index for full data].
The cost of the Pietermaritzburg Household Food Basket was R3 709,92.
The cost of the Durban Household Food Basket was R3 907,62.
The cost of the Cape Town Household Food Basket was R3 920,86.
The cost of the Joburg Household Food Basket was R3 969,41.
The cost of the Springbok Household Food Basket was R4 034,53.
The main foods that are driving higher increases in the Household Food Basket are maize meal (2%), rice (1%), cake flour (1%), sugar beans (7%), cooking oil (2%), potatoes (20%) and bread (White 2% and Brown 1%) [these foods are prioritised and bought first], butternut (68%), tinned pilchards (4%) and peanut butter (5%).
The upward trend in the cost of The Household Food Basket is consistent with the trends we have seen in the original Pietermaritzburg basket, with a month-on-month increase (September 2020 to October 2020) of R60,75 (1,8%), a ’’lockdown’’ (seven) month increase (March 2020 to October 2020) of R293,38 (9,1%), and a year-on-year increase (October 2019 to October 2020) of R329,74 (10,4%). The total cost of the original Pietermaritzburg basket in October is R3 514,38 [See pages 8 & 9 in attached doc]. The original Pietermaritzburg Household Food Basket is at the highest level seen since Covid19 and the lockdown started from March 2020, and the highest we have ever seen since PMBEJD’s food price collections started in June 2018.
The National Minimum Wage for a General Worker in October 2020 is R3 653,76. The average cost of the Household Food Basket of R3 916,72 is well beyond the affordability thresholds of families living on low incomes. Low-paid workers do not even earn enough to afford a basket of food for their families, this even before deducting transport fare to work and back and electricity, amongst a myriad of other critical expenses.
In October 2020, the average cost to feed a child a basic nutritious diet cost R693,05. The Child Support Grant of R440 a month is 25% below the food poverty line of R585 per capita and a further 37% below the October cost of R693,05 to feed a child a basic nutritious diet.
Families eat out of the same pot. If government removes the top ups on the Old Age Grant, the Special Covid Relief Grant and R500 top-up to the Child Support Grant too soon than hunger will explode in millions of our children’s bellies and condemn yet another generation to desperate poverty.
The Household Affordability Index serves as an early warning system for how our economy is doing and impacting on ordinary South Africans. There is perhaps no cruder lens then the foods on our plates and here we are in very big trouble.
Our projections (based on past data trends and current data) are that the cost of household food baskets purchased by low income families will continue to rise through the festive season and into the New Year. On the income side, it does not look like things will improve, and it may worsen if the millions of jobs lost during the lockdown are not recovered, and if Government removes the top-ups on the social grants and the Covid Relief Grant too soon. It is clear to us that this situation cannot continue. South African families living on low wages and low grants simply cannot afford these food price escalations just generally, but especially in the midst of a pandemic, a deepening household affordability crisis and a deteriorating economy.