Food Price Shocker

In the past 12 months maize has increased by 36%, milk has gone by 18% and chicken by 34%. These were some of the shocking statistics contained in the annual Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) food basket barometer that measures the cost of basic food items over a 12 month period.

Overall, the cost of a basic basket of food has risen to a whopping 16.5% between the January 2016 and January 2017 period.

According to the PACSA research the overall food basket was measured at R1 797.04 in January 2016. The same items today at a supermarket costs on average R2 092.95 at the till.

The food basket is a barometer for the affordability of food and other essential household requirements for working-class households. The basic food basket is weighted in favour of items bought by these households: 25kg of maize meal, 10kg of rice, 10kg of cake flour, 10kg of white sugar and 4 litres of oil.

PACSA said 31 of the 36 food categories increased in January. Data from the barometer shows that the food basket increased by 5.7% between December 2016 and January 2017. The cost of staple foods bought in low income households increased by 19.1% in the last year forcing these households to cut back on foods that add nutritional value to meals.

Currently the cost of a PACSA minimum nutritional food basket for a family of four is R2616.71, a family of five is R3380.10 and a family of seven is R4577.32 making the inflation rate for families between 4-7 members 11.9%. The cost of feeding a child between the ages of 3 and 9 is R589 per month.

According to PACSA the current value of a 2017 child support grant is R360 per child per month and an old age pension is R1510 per month.

The spike in food prices coupled with other cost of living increases is having a profound impact on rising hunger levels, says Project Manager of the Pietermaritzburg Community Chest Zane Mchunu saying the NGO has had to do more now to combat hunger than they have in previous years. “The demand from the community has increased greatly as there are more poorer people now than before. We have had to allocate more resources to try to alleviate the problem Mchunu said stressing that. Children bear the brunt of poverty and hunger.

“We have found that many children arrive at school hungry because they come from underprivileged homes where parents not only can’t afford food but also can’t afford to give their children nutritious meals. This in turn affects their performance at school,” he explained.

Community Chest has partnered with the Joint Aid Management (JAM) to provide cereal packs to scholars in the early childhood development phase. “There are feeding schemes that provide lunch and supper to children but in reality no child can function at the start of school with an empty stomach. These cereal packs are taken to schools for children to consume before the start of classes,” Mchunu added said.

Thembalethu Zakwe

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