Considering the continued downgrade of the rand alongside other socio economic challenges, rising food prices has now become a major threat to south Africa’s stability than poor leadership. South Africans are now forced to eat cheaper, less healthy food and get into debt to buy groceries.
With the fall of the nation’s economy and the causative effect of drought, important food products which are usually bought at affordable rate has now gone too high, higher than what an ordinary citizen could afford.
According to the findings of the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action, which has been monitoring food prices since 2006, the current economic standard has affected people’s lifestyle especially in terms of healthy diets.
“Poverty and prosperity can predispose to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes,” said the foundation’s Christelle Crickmore.
“In the long term a healthy diet and lifestyle hold substantial cost benefit in medical cost savings and increased productive working years.”
Some foods monitored by Pacsa between November last year and March 2016, demonstrated a sharp increase: 10kg of potatoes rose from R35 to R60.32, four litres of cooking oil from R70.66 to R89.98 and 10kg of sugar from R103.65 to R117.98.
In fact, a food basket comprising starchy foods, sugar, beans, oil, milk, meat, fish and vegetables cost R1797 in January has according to Pacsa, increased to R1869 .
Pacsa researcher Julie Smith said the agency had found that households secured staple foods before more nutritional foods. There was less money to buy meat, dairy products and vegetables and to her,this may have long-term and irreversible effects on health, productivity and well-being.
Speaking further, Smith said food was an expense households prioritized because it was one they could control and when food ran out two or three weeks into the month, families went into debt to cover the shortfall.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Agriculture, Senzeni Zokwana on Friday warned businesses suspected of profiteering from a drought by raising the prices of staples such as bread would face the wrath of competition authorities.
The minister who was addressing the media on the current economic state and how it affects food production, said the the government would ensure no one takes the weather conditions as an advantage to extort money from consumers.
“I agree we need to find formulas that makes sure… nobody misuses the drought and suddenly, before there are shortages, begins to hike prices. We cannot rule out the Competition Commission coming on board,” Zokwana told a media briefing.
“We have taken note of the view that in the baking area people are charging very high prices; we will have to look at that so that we can be able to deal with those things.”
The South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) has also warned that higher food prices posed a risk to inflation, which stood at 6.3% in March compared with 7% in February, the highest in nearly seven years.
However, the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign is planning a “sporadic, disruptive” protests against high food prices.
The campaign’s spokesman, Imraahn Mukaddam, said the cheap maize snacks that many people ate to get through the day contributed to obesity and diabetes. But Pick n Pay group executive David North suggested substitutes, such as rice for wheat-based products and chicken for beef, to cut costs.