‘I almost fainted when I saw the cost of veggies’
If you think you’ve been paying more for vegetables over the past few months, you probably have.
And according to Julie Smith, an advocacy and research officer at the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), the situation is about to become worse, thanks to the drought.
Pacsa tracks the prices of 36 basic foods every month. It then compiles a barometer indicating whether prices have increased or decreased.
The latest barometer shows that vegetable prices have skyrocketed over the past three months. Researchers found that a 3kg bag of tomatoes increased by R11 between September and November last year, while a 10kg bag of potatoes increased by about R5.
Smith said the pinch consumers were feeling was just the beginning.
“Basic food prices will continue to increase in the next few months for various reasons, which may include the drought that’s gripping some parts of the country. Lower-income households will be the ones affected most as this trend continues,” said Smith.
Pacsa held focus groups in Haniville outside Pietermaritzburg in August last year, where the NGO asked women what they were noticing about food prices. There was a consensus that basic foods, in particular starches and vegetables, were becoming unaffordable for many.
One woman said: “We need all the money just for potatoes and maize meal.”
Another said: “We now eat a very limited variety of vegetables.”
Although Haniville is a rural area and hundreds of kilometres from Johannesburg, the sentiments shared by the women there were the same as those of Ntombi Duma from Dube in Soweto.
Duma (45), who works at a salon in the township, told City Press that “vegetables cost the same as meat these days”.
“I love vegetables and have always tried to enforce the culture at home of having more veggies on the plate than starch, but now I can’t keep up with that. Simple vegetables like tomatoes now cost an arm and a leg,” she said.
“Two weeks ago I went to one of the local supermarkets to get veggies and I almost fainted when I saw that a pack of three robot peppers [red, green and yellow] was R35. Tomatoes [1kg] had also almost doubled, moving from R12 a few months ago to R20,” she said.
The mother of one said she asked the man working in the market’s vegetable section why the shop was ripping off customers and he said it was the suppliers who were charging them more.
Duma said she had taken a decision that she would only buy the necessary vegetables, such as onions, and maybe carrots.
“I can cook food without tomatoes or peppers, but not onions. We can also live without potatoes; if need be, we can substitute potato salad with pasta salad. At least pasta
is still cheap,” she said.
BREAKING THE BANK The price of
fruit and vegetables has risen sharply