For most South Africans the 2022 spike in meal, flour and bread prices increased the cost of living as much as the rise in electricity tariffs and taxi fares combined. But higher food prices did not result from a jump in production costs or new dependence on imports.

International markets drive the price of staple foods even when they are produced locally. As a result, volatile global grain prices brought a 30% price increase for maize meal and flour in the year to December, while bread climbed nearly 20%. Local production costs rose a fraction as fast. These trends meant already impoverished people ended up paying economic rents to companies in the grain value chains...

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