Taking stock of food prices

Many have commented on South Africa’s drought and how rapidly food prices have been rising. The latest release of Stats SA’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) unpacks the South African food basket to examine which items might be contributing to your rising grocery bill.

Imagine a basket sitting in front you, filled with a range of food items. Imagine that these items represent what the average South African household buys. If we consider price changes of all the items in the basket, South African consumers paid an average of 9,8% more for the basket in March 2016 than they did in March 2015. This rise is the highest monthly year-on-year rise in food since February 2012.

Food inflation has followed an upward trend since November 2015, with year-on-year figures of 4,8% (November), 5,8% (December), 7,0% (January), 8,8% (February), and 9,8% (March).

Let’s unpack the basket. Vegetables and fruit were both 18,7% more expensive in March 2016 than they were in March 2015. Next time you shop, take note of the prices for tomatoes, pumpkins and bananas. The average prices for these items rose sharply over the 12-month period.

Other food items that have had an impact on your food expenses in the last year have been oils & fats, bread & cereals, and sugar & desserts. The recorded price increases for these items were above the average increase for the food basket as a whole.


Other key facts from the March 2016 Consumer Price Index (CPI) release:

  • Annual consumer price inflation was 6,3% in March 2016, down from 7,0% in February 2016 (prices did not fall, they just went up at a slower annual rate).
  • The housing and utilities category accounts for one quarter of the CPI; and it increased by 6,4% year-on-year.
  • Clothing and footwear increased by 4,8% year-on-year, and transport increased by 4,5% year-on-year (transport includes vehicle prices, petrol and other running costs, and public transport).
  • University fees, which are measured every March, showed zero annual increase in March 2016, reflecting the outcome of recent negotiations between students, university management and government.

Download the release here.