7.8% rise in food prices leaves sour taste

Daily News - - METRO - ED­WARD WEST ed­ward.west@inl.co.za

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.

LOCK­DOWN re­stric­tions have meant that chil­dren and work­ers have re­mained at home, so food has run out quicker – and the price of food has in­creased.

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