Shock at in­crease in cost of food bas­ket

The Witness - - NEWS - NOKUTHULA NTULI • nokuthula.ntuli@wit­ness.co.za

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.”

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