Stats SA releases shock consumer price index: Milk, eggs and cheese up by 12.3%

A shopper at a groceries retailer at Vanguard Mall. Picture: Matthew Jordaan/African News Agency

A shopper at a groceries retailer at Vanguard Mall. Picture: Matthew Jordaan/African News Agency

Published Mar 23, 2023


Cape Town - South African consumers continue to face an uphill battle with brutal price increases on food, electricity and fuel.

Inflation has increased for the first time since October last year and with it the prices of meat, milk, eggs, cheese, vegetables, sugar, sweets and desserts have hiked notably, meaning South Africans are having to dig deeper in their pockets to put food on the table.

Not making it any easier are last week’s increases in the cost of electricity, after the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) approved Eskom’s 18.49% price hike to municipalities, effective from 1 April.

Statistics SA on Wednesday released the Consumer Price Index which showed annual consumer inflation rising for the first time in four months, edging to 7% in February from 6.9% in January.

Stats SA said the 0.7% rise between January and February represented the largest monthly increase since July 2022 (1.5%).

According to the Stats report, maize meal’s price index increased by 2.2% between January and February, and notable monthly price increases were also recorded for rusks, macaroni and savoury biscuits (up by 4%).

Meat price inflation continues to accelerate, reaching 11.4% in February from 11.2% in January.

Statistician-general Risenga Maluleke said: “This is the highest annual increase for meat since February 2018.”

Maluleke said prices for milk, eggs and cheese increased by 12.3% between February 2022 and February this year. The 12.3% rate is up from 10.9% in January.

Statistician-general Risenga Maluleke. File Photo: GCIS

He said other notable annual increases were recorded for cheddar cheese, feta cheese, custard, fresh low-fat milk and long-life full cream milk.

The category “other food” saw its annual inflation rate climb from 7.7% in June 2022 to 15% in February.

Products in this category recording high monthly price increases include baby milk formula, baby cereal, baking powder and tomato sauce.

Cold beverages registered an annual price increase of 8.5% with monthly increases recorded for fruit juices, fizzy drinks in a can, and fizzy drinks in a bottle.

At the same time, however, annual inflation in the oils and fats category slowed down for a sixth consecutive month, edging downwards to the lowest reading since April 2021.

It will also cost more to be sick as medical services fees for doctors, dentists and hospital wards, which are surveyed once a year in February, shot up by 5.3% in February compared with the 5% rise recorded in February 2022.

The index for health insurance increased by 4.4% between January and February as several companies implemented their annual premium increases.

Chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (Agbiz) Wandile Sihlobo said: “These elevated levels of SA consumer food price inflation are unsurprising and illustrate an environment where there are still tail-end effects of generally higher agricultural commodity prices.”

However, it is not all doom and gloom.

Sihlobo said the recent interventions made by the government through the diesel rebate, among others, would help ease price pressures.

In a tweet after Stats SA’s release of the CPI, Sihlobo said: “The meat prices, which underpinned the uptick in February, could also soften; we are seeing this already in some red meat prices. Also, sharp vegetable price increases were temporary and influenced by weather conditions.”

Sihlobo said taking all these aspects together should see the consumer food price inflation softening from around May into the year’s second half.

Afrika Tikkun Foundation chief operating officer Sipho Mamize. File picture: Sharon Seretlo

Afrika Tikkun Foundation (ATF) chief operating officer Sipho Mamize recently told sister paper The Mercury that the country was facing unprecedented food security risks following food price inflation in the first two months of 2023.

The ATF, which provides education, health and social services to underprivileged communities, said those who are already poor, relying on cheaper staple foods and charities to survive, could not withstand a further onslaught on food security without decisive action to prevent this.

Mamize said: “Food is becoming far too expensive for humane economic conditions to prevail. If this trend continues it may lead to food becoming unaffordable to millions more South Africans who are already living on or below the breadline.”

[email protected]

Cape Argus