Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The cost of a basic basket of food has risen 16.5% in January compared to January a year ago, with staples such as maize, samp and chicken pieces recording among the highest increases, the latest Pacsa monthly food price barometer shows.

A Pacsa food basket that cost R1,797.04 in January 2016 now rings up to R2,092.95 at the till, according to survey results published on Monday.

The Pacsa food basket — compiled by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action — is a barometer for the affordability of food and other essential household requirements for working-class households. These households typically derive their income from low wages and social grants and are exposed to high levels of unemployment.

The basic food basket takes into account the items required monthly in these households: 25kg of maize meal, 10kg of rice, 10kg of cake flour, 10kg of white sugar and 4-litres of oil. It tracks the prices of 36 basic foods that working-class poor households with seven members buy monthly. Pacsa said 31 of the 36 food categories increased in January.

Julie Smith, spokesperson for Pacsa said: "The price of the ‘big foods’ determines dietary diversity on the plate. High increases mean that low-income households cut back on foods that are important for balanced nutrition, such as meats, fish and eggs, dairy and vegetables."

The food basket shows dramatic increases in items such as 25kg of maize meal, which has risen 36% to R244.32 in January 2017. A 10kg pack of white sugar costs 32% more.

But items such as spinach, cabbage, onions and potatoes have experienced disinflation over the past 12 months although they increased between December and January.

Last week, Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago said food prices would drop. Food price inflation was expected to average 7% in 2017 compared to 6.5% in 2016, as the effects of higher rainfall in parts of the country aid a recovery in maize and wheat prices.

Smith also said that the January 2017 Pacsa minimum nutritional food basket for a family of four — R2,616.7 — would consume 74.8% of the proposed R3,500 national minimum wage. Add to this water and transport costs and the expenditure shoots up to more than R3,600. "The low proposed national minimum wage will trap working families in ever-deeper cycles of poverty, ill-health and debt," she said.

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