By: Natasha Archary
Let’s all take a minute of silence before we share our collective dismay at the cost of living in South Africa. Our international counterparts may refute our claims that things are tough at the moment in our country. Comparatively, South Africa is upto 43% more affordable than the U.S.A or the UK for that matter. This doesn’t mean that low income households in South Africa don’t struggle daily.
Over the past twelve years, food prices in the country have soared at an alarmingly rate. The recent VAT increase has added to the burgeoning cost of basic food prices that the average South African can barely afford.
According to a Business Day report, 10% of the lowest earning South Africans spend 13.08% of their disposable income on taxes, as opposed to the 12.6% that the 10% of the higest earning South Africans fork out monthly.
Back in 2006, the cost of basic food items would leave you cringing in comparison to what you are likely to pay today.
To give you an example of the difference let’s break it down for you: (Do note prices are rough estimates and may not reflect actual store prices)
Flora Margarine 500g
Five Roses Tea 100s
Long life milk 1L
Frozen chicken 1.5kg
Low-income households are spending 54% less than they should on food today. This according to the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA), in a report that said people are prioritising education, debt, electricity and transport costs before food.
In September last year, the cost of a basic but nutritional trolley full of food amounted to just over R4000 a month. On average, low-income households are spending just under R2000 a month on food. The median wage is a factor on spending habits, this puts most South Africans below the poverty line. Social grants are another factor, with child support grants at R380 a month, PACSA found that the cost of feeding a child is closer to R580 a month.
There’s also the issue of most brands changing the weight or portions of products but not the prices of these products. An example of this would be the staple 10kg bag of potatoes, which have now been reduced to 7kg. A whole 3kg’s less but at the cost of a 10kg bag. The same holds true for eggs, chicken and meat packs.
The fight is already on for government to reverse the VAT hike, with the DA being instrumental in leading the call at parliament and calling for the Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene to reverse the decision. Will they get it right?
We sit and wait with bated breath and pinched pockets, trying to find a means to an end.