Shock at increase in cost of food basket
THE 7,8% increase to the basic basket of core staple foods, which amounts to an additional R250, is a serious financial shock for families living on low income.
This is an observation made by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity (PMBEJD) in its recent study looking at the impact of the lockdown restrictions on low-income households headed by women. It found that the basic basket was at R3 473 on April 23.
“The cost of household food baskets continues to escalate. Women are worried about government’s ability to understand their situation, and whether there is a genuineness to step up and help them,” said programme co-ordinator Mervyn Abrahams.
Staples such as rice, cooking oil and sugar have increased by least eight percent. Abrahams said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) regulations for consumer and customer protection omitted some of the critical items like samp and bread from the list of foods that should be protected from price increases during the lockdown.
“These foods are critical staple foods — sugar beans and eggs are essential for proper nutrition. Green bar soap should also be included. The DTI must urgently amend the regulations,” read the report.
The document highlights the importance of people eating proper nutritious food to build a strong immune system to fight diseases, especially when there is the threat of Covid-19 looming.
The study also looked into women’s concerns and fears as the country battles the virus. These relate to the projected job losses, the staggered return of workers to employment with the small top-ups on grants and the lockdown restricting their strategy to shop for the cheapest prices across several supermarkets.
For most women who still do their shopping in CBDs and take taxis, they must finish their shopping before 10 am if they are to catch the last taxi home. Missing this taxi means waiting with perishable foods until the afternoon when taxi operations resume.
The study also found that restricted times and long queues mean women have to buy their entire grocery list in just one supermarket and one butchery, therefore their food baskets are more expensive at the very time when household income has dropped.
“In some supermarkets, women, when they are let in, are only given 20 minutes to shop, thus turning their shopping into a sort of mad-tragic parody on the ‘lucky trolley dash’.”
There also health concerns as social distancing outside supermarkets does not start at the end of the queue — it starts at the front of the queue.
Women are also complaining that informal traders are not on the streets. Women typically buy vegetables, fruit and eggs, domestic and personal hygiene products from street traders. Street traders allow them to buy foods in relation to how much money they have and they are also able to haggle and check the quality of the fresh produce they buy.
The prices of domestic and personal hygiene products have also increased since the Covid-19 outbreak, making it difficult for struggling households to buy them.
The study found that the budget to buy these comes from the food budget, so it means that some families have to spend less on food to buy the hygiene products necessary to protect themselves from the virus.
“The cost of household food baskets continues to escalate. Women are worried about government’s ability to understand their situation, and whether there is a genuineness to step up and help them.”