7.8% rise in food prices leaves sour taste
THE PRICE of a supermarket trolley of food has risen 7.8% (R250) since the start of the lockdown in March, hitting low-income families’ pockets hard.
The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity (PMBEJD) Household Food Basket survey for May said with lockdown restrictions children and workers have remained at home, so food ran out quicker, and women could no longer shop around for the cheapest prices, so they had to buy more core staple foods.
“Our research suggests families living on low incomes might be spending 30% (R973.93) more on food in May than they did two months ago,” PMBEJD director Mervyn Abrahams said yesterday.
The economic effects of the lockdown
THIS period of our employment history shows us how important health and wellness in the workplace is.
We have good health and safety regulations and systems in the country but we need to revisit many of these systems to ensure that we can protect staff in every environment.
The Employment and Labour Ministry, in conjunction with the Health Ministry, has given us regulations that are applicable during the Covid19 period. These regulations are to be strictly enforced and should be respected beyond the Covid-19 period.
Once we have both adhered to the actual regulations and their spirit, it’s important for us to see what else can be done by the employer in order to ensure the staff are kept well, and in turn, productive.
We also must make sure every staff member is properly registered with both the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the Workmen’s Compensation Fund (WCF).
All people who are employed, in terms of the legislation, must be registered with the WCF and the employer must pay the annual assessment fees.
The fund in turn will compensate any employee or their dependants in the event of an accident or illness at the workplace. on poor income families has been recognised by the government with, for instance, President Cyril Ramaphosa saying on Freedom Day “that for millions… This has been a month of misery… Of breadwinners not working, of families struggling to survive and of children going to bed and waking up hungry”.
On Friday, the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign and the Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre (Copac) inaugurated the National Food Crisis Forum (NFCF), which has as its aim the building of a partnership with the government, which is operating its own food relief programmes, and the Solidarity Fund to address the food crisis.
“While our data is localised (the data is gleaned from shops in Pietermaritzburg most frequented by lowerincome earners), it is not unlikely that this picture is playing itself out in textured variations across South Africa,” said Abrahams.
He said their research found that women, with no savings buffers were taking on higher debt to absorb some part of the food shortfalls.
“Our findings raise very serious questions regarding the adequacy of the government’s interventions to help South Africans during the Covid19 pandemic, particularly as financial shocks will continue even as the government moves to ease the lockdown restrictions,” said Abrahams.
Over the period before the lockdown (March 2) to May 4, the price of the PMBEJD Household Food Basket increased by R249.92 or 7.8%, taking the total cost to R3 470.92 this month. The year-on-year price rise was 13.8%.
Staple food prices that have spiked over two months included rice (26%), cake flour (3%), white sugar (6%), sugar beans (18%), cooking oil (11%), white bread (15%), brown bread (14%), potatoes (8%), onions (58%), tomatoes (12%), spinach (13%), and cabbage (22%).
In Pietermaritzburg, women were typically buying more maize meal (25kg bag versus 10kg), rice, cooking oil (an extra five litres), flour (12.5kg bag v 10kg), potatoes (an extra 10kg) and cabbages (an extra four heads).
Social distancing in minibuses and supermarkets had disrupted shopping procedures. Before Covid-19, women scouted around three to four supermarkets, and two to three butcheries to find the most affordable prices.
past 24 years, but we’re hoping to see this changed in the next few months.
There is a review of the benefit structure to improve benefits and payments to employees and their beneficiaries. The fund was set up to be a fit-for-purpose medical aid scheme that is efficient, accountable and has credibility across its clientele. Unfortunately, its enormous failure has not fulfilled its purpose and has to a large degree caused medical practitioners to refuse to see WCF patients.
This dysfunctional fund is going to be at the centre of trying to manage payments to employees who get sick at work from the Covid-19.
There will be a deluge of cases and we are expecting the ministry to look at civil society and private companies to help in this trying time. It would be wise for the fund to partner with a big insurance company or medical aid to ensure the funds are distributed timeously and fairly to employees who get sick at work. It’s the right time for the trade union movement to demand that this be put into place before their members get ill and before they have to suffer non-payment from the fund.
Unions need to know that the core business of the fund is to ensure there are services, medical benefits and rehabilitation services.