Chicken off the table for poor South Africans after price hike

Chicken, South Africa’s meat of choice, is becoming too expensive for the country’s low-income workers, leaving them with dangerously few options for protein sources.

Bloomberg’s Shisa Nyama Index shows that 10 kilograms of frozen chicken rations, enough to feed an average seven-income family for a month, is the most expensive item on their grocery list.

READ | New ‘Shisa Nyama Index’ shows how SA’s poor are suffering as prices soar faster than inflation

A R378.90 bag of chicken in November is equivalent to a fifth of the food expenditure of a person dependent on South Africa’s monthly old-age grant. The price has increased by 9% year-on-year.

Based on data from the Economic Justice and Dignity Group in Pietermaritzburg, the index tracks the prices of some key ingredients in a traditional township barbecue in South Africa, known as shisa nyama. Cornmeal, onions, carrots, tomatoes, curry powder, salt, beef, and worsteds—a type of sausage made from a variety of ground meat cuts—are among the elements that make up the index.

To compile their survey, PMBEJD data collectors track food prices on the shelves of 44 supermarkets and 30 butchers that target the low-income market in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and the northern city -west of Springbok.

The index exposes the impact of inflation on South Africa’s most vulnerable consumers. In November, the Shisa Nyama Index showed prices up 18% from a year earlier. That beat the 7.4% rise in global consumer prices measured by South Africa’s state statistics agency, and was faster than the 10.1% it measured for the income decile lowest earning up to 20,140 rand per month.

Officially, food prices rose 12.8% year-on-year, driven by rising costs of bread, cereals, milk, eggs, cheese and meat, according to local lender Nedbank Group Ltd.

South Africa’s central bank last month revised its forecast for food price inflation in 2022 to 8.8% from 8.1%, due in part to a weaker exchange rate. The rand has depreciated 7.7% against the dollar since January, making it among the 10 worst-performing major currencies this year, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

In addition to the effect of the weakening rand, poultry prices have increased as a result of global supply constraints. These have stemmed from high feed costs, the ongoing war in Ukraine and the spread of bird flu across the northern hemisphere, according to the Office of Agriculture and Food Policy.

“Meat is considered a luxury item in the consumption basket of most South African consumers,” the bureau said in its 2022 benchmark report. “Growth in per capita consumption has slowed dramatically, reflecting the impact of poor economic growth and reduced purchasing power.”

South Africa’s low-income workers are left with worse as the cheapest source of protein, and even then, at R140.40 per 2 kilograms, it would be out of reach for a family trying to survive on a one-off child support grant that pays R480 per month. According to the PMBEJD, this money should go to staples such as maize flour, with 30 kilograms costing almost R300.

The South African government has a National Food and Nutrition Security Plan, with a number of targets and deadlines set for the coming year. Since the plan was introduced in 2018, the country has suffered an economic decline, rising unemployment and costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic and bailing out state institutions.

“Poor South Africans need an affordable source of protein” to help them avoid relying on a less nutritious, high-carbohydrate diet, the finance minister of the opposition Democratic Alliance said in October , Dion George. “At least 27% of children under the age of five in South Africa are stunted due to malnutrition. Millions of school children cannot concentrate and learn. The productivity of workers is affected and our society is increasingly unstable.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *