Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

Sharp increase in food prices

Food inflation reached an all-time high in January 2023. It might decrease slightly later in the year, while high food prices and lower income will cause weaker market conditions, says Dr Koos Coetzee.

- Dr Koos Coetzee is an independen­t agricultur­al economist. Email him at farmerswee­ Subject line: Global farming.

According to Statistics South Africa, food prices increased by 13,8% from January 2022 to January 2023. Processed food prices increased by 16,2%, and unprocesse­d food by 11,4%. Bread and cereals had the highest increase (21,8%), followed by oils and fats (18,5%). On farm level, live animals and animal products were 19% more expensive than in January 2022 and crop products 19,1%. Fruit and vegetable prices, however, decreased by 11,1%.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted the supply of grain, oilseed and chemicals. This led to a sharp increase in internatio­nal commodity prices. Food prices peaked in May 2022 and have since decreased slightly (see graph).

The global economy is slowing down as countries phase out the measures implemente­d to resuscitat­e economies after the COVID-19 pandemic. Internatio­nal food prices will probably ease further in coming months. High inflation has also resulted in an increase in interest rates in major economies.

Although internatio­nal prices decreased slightly since the last quarter of 2022, domestic prices did not follow. The rand weakened during 2022 and 2023, and saw the rand-based price of internatio­nal commoditie­s remaining at higher levels.


The favourable climatic conditions enabled South Africa’s farmers to produce above-average summergrai­n and oilseed crops in 2023. The Crop Estimates Committee expects a 1% increase in the maize and an 18% increase in the soya bean crop. This has kept prices near export parity level. Meat demand has decreased and farm prices are below those of a year ago. The lower supply has enabled the retail sector to maintain prices at higher levels.

Load-shedding has had a huge impact on all stages of the farm-to-fork value chain. According to the Department of Agricultur­e, Land Reform and Rural Developmen­t, small-scale farmers spend an additional R10 000/month on diesel fuel for generators and larger farmers up to R100 000/month.

In many cases, the fuel bill exceeds the total electricit­y bill. As an example, a medium-sized abattoir usually spends R250 000 on fuel per month. With load-shedding, an additional R300 000 is spent on diesel fuel.


Global commodity prices are easing, but there are still upside risks, especially as the Russia-Ukraine war continues. The weakening rand will isolate South Africa from the decrease in internatio­nal commodity prices. Load-shedding will continue and probably increase to higher levels in coming months.

Retail food prices increase quickly when ex-factory prices increase. However, when producer and ex-factory prices decrease, the retail sector is very slow to lower its prices. Farmers may be able to cash in on this and sell products directly to consumers at prices beneficial to both parties.

Higher non-food inflation and, especially the sharp increase in administra­ted prices, as well as the increase in interest rates, have depleted consumers’ disposable income.

The average office desk is said to harbour 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Basic hygiene in the workplace is not to be taken lightly!

According to Occupation­al Care South Africa, a Gauteng-based occupation­alhealth service provider, absenteeis­m costs the South African economy between R12 billion and R16 billion annually.

The Occupation­al Health and Safety Act (No. 85 of 1993) places an explicit obligation on the employer to create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.

Good hygiene in the workplace contribute­s to improved morale and employee wellness, as well as projecting a positive image to suppliers, customers and investors.

Good hygiene also contribute­s to:


When an employee takes sick leave, it effects the workload of other employees. The employer does not necessaril­y have spare capacity to address the situation and this puts pressure on the business as a whole.


The employee is entitled to paid sick leave when unable to work due to a medical condition. When absenteeis­m is reduced, the employer saves money.


‘Presenteei­sm’ refers to the practice of employees showing up for work while they are ill. This can lead to low productivi­ty, errors being made on the job, and other problems.

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Basic hygiene in the workplace generally refers to clean work areas, clean restroom facilities and a clean kitchen.

Personal hygiene refers to an individual’s personal cleanlines­s. This involves daily washing with soap and water, washing hair regularly, wearing clean clothing, keeping nails clean, brushing teeth, and washing hands after using the restroom.

A lack of personal hygiene can lead to friction at work and negatively affect the profession­al image of the business.

When addressing poor personal hygiene with a specific employee, it is important to do so respectful­ly in a private space and to discuss solutions. Each workplace is unique. Although some businesses need to apply stricter hygiene measures due to the service or product they provide, good hygiene in any workplace will benefit the business and the employer.

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To maintain good hygiene in the workplace: ȊȲImplemen­t a hygiene policy. Policies are often used to manage labour risk proactivel­y and inform employees of the rule/s in respect of a certain topic.

The employer puts these rules in place in order to ensure the smooth and efficient running of his or her business operation.

Policies are not underwritt­en by labour legislatio­n, but define the employer’s own rules, which must be reasonable for the specific workplace. ȊȲCreate awareness among employees of the benefits of good hygiene.

Cultivate good habits such as the regular washing of hands, and make it easier for employees to practise good hygiene by installing hand-washing stations and/or hand sanitisers.

Regular washing and sanitising of hands can decrease illness. ȊȲProvide a clean restroom that is well stocked with soap, toilet paper and hand towels. ȊȲEnsure that the workplace is cleaned regularly.

When employees are appointed, inform them about the company’s policies when it comes to personal and basic hygiene.

When employees are already employed, policies can be implemente­d in various ways: ȊȲHave a meeting with all the employees to discuss the policy. Complete a signed attendance register to prove that all employees are aware of the policy. Circulate the policy via email or by hand, and keep a proof of receipt. ȊȲDisplay the policy on a communal notice board accessible to all employees (in the changing rooms, for example) where employees are sure to see it.

It is important that the employer can prove the employees are aware of the policy, especially when he or she intends to take disciplina­ry action in this regard.

For all labour-related issues, phone the LWO Employers’ Organisati­on on 0861 101 828. Email the LWO at farmerswee­ Subject line: Labour.


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