Over the past few months, the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD) has conducted research into the skyrocketing cost of groceries and core food items in the country…

Over the lockdown period, the price of groceries and essential household items have continued to increase, wreaking havoc on household budgets – particularly in poorer households who are on a minimum-wage income.

The average cost of the Household Food Basket in September was R3 783,16 according to the PMBEJD. “This is well beyond the affordability thresholds of families living on low incomes,” says Mervyn Abrahams, Programme Coordinator at PMBEJD. “The National Minimum Wage for this same period was R3 487,68.”

Tighter budgets have led to families having to make tough calls when it comes to grocery purchases. The research shows that mothers are having to prioritise core foods that satiate hungry stomachs, but don’t necessarily offer high-value nutrition.

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The average cost of feeding a child a basic nutritious diet

According to the PMBEJD the average cost of feeding a child a basic nutritious diet in September was R695,74. This is far above the Child Support Grant of R440 a month.

“There can no longer be a justification by government to continue removing more than a third of the foods off the plates of ±12,78 million children,” says Abrahams. “The Child Support Grant must be increased to a level which will allow mothers/caregivers to feed their children properly.”

The economic crisis and job cuts have left households with gaping holes in their budgets.

Families who were living on the bread line are now struggling even more. Income earners may have lost their jobs or experienced significant pay cuts, while expenses (groceries, trips to the doctor, transport to stores, purchasing data for school work from home) have increased.

Raising a healthy family in the current economic crisis is getting tougher and tougher.

The average cost of raising a child:
The average cost of raising a child: Source: Household Affordability Index – Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD)

Lack of proper nutrition also leads to a lack of energy and motivation

Young children at school are not able to concentrate properly, and their learning is affected. For adults, getting through hard physical labour or maintaining proper energy levels throughout the day becomes tougher and tougher.

“The data shows that the core foods contribute ±55% of the total cost of the Household Food Basket. At an average cost of R2 065,71, these foods remove a lot of money from the household purse whilst removing proper nutritious food off the plate,” says Abrahams.

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Grant levels and top-ups

“Food prices have not come down off these Covid-19 and lockdown highs; and with the Festive season approaching, food prices are expected to rise,” says Abrahams.

As the country faces a massive economic crisis, and the food prices continue to escalate, Abrahams says it’s essential that the special R350 Covid-19 grant continues to be given to families in need.

He also suggests that the government should continue to top up the Child Support Grant of R500 per mother/caregiver, including the R250 top-up to the Old Age Grant.

“The value of the top-ups is not enough to assist households to absorb the shock of income losses and food price increases but they do help,” says Abrahams.

core foods
Core foods
Source: Household Affordability Index – Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD)


About the Household Food Basket research:

  • Food prices are tracked directly by women data collectors off the shelves of 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries which target the low-income market. 
  • The supermarkets are in Soweto, Alexandra, Tembisa and Hillbrow (Joburg), Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Philippi, Delft, Dunoon (Cape Town), KwaMashu, Umlazi, Durban CBD, Mtubatuba (Durban), Springbok (in the Northern Cape) and Pietermaritzburg CBD.  
  • There are 43 foods in the household basket. The basket is designed for a household with 7-members, the average household size of families living on a low income.

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