‘I al­most fainted when I saw the cost of veg­gies’

CityPress - - News - ZINHLE MA­PUMULO zinhle.ma­pumulo@city­press.co.za

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

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