Lihle Z Mtshali
Official figures released two weeks ago showed that consumers were paying an average of 15.3 percent more for their food in March than a year ago.
But our independent shopping trolley survey shows that from January to May, the cost of your 20 most essential grocery items has shot up by an incredible 25.2 percent.
The Times Shopping Trolley was launched in January to monitor the price fluctuations of 20 of the most essential grocery items that go into your shopping trolley every month.
The biggest increase in the five months that the survey has been going is in cooking oil. The price of a 750ml bottle of Canola cooking oil has gone up from an average of R12.56 in January to R20.68 — a whopping 64.6 percent increase.
March’s producer price index figures showed that prices of fats and oils jumped by 52.1 percent year-on-year.
South Africa imports 800000 tons of vegetable oil every year, at a cost of between R6- to R8-billion.
According to Professor Johan Willemse of the University of the Free State, this is the main reason for the spike in cooking oil prices.
“There is a global shortage of agricultural commodities on the world market from which we import because of demand growth and production not keeping up with the pace, which has contributed to the high commodity prices,” Willemse said.
“Locally, we produce about 400000 tons of vegetable oil each year, whereas South Africans consume up to 1.3 million tons of oil per year. So, we produce too little for local consumption.”
Last week sunflower seeds, which are used to produce cooking oil, cost R4619 per ton, up from R2685 a year ago.
Fanie Joubert, an economist at the Efficient Group, said the combination of high global food prices and the weak rand were adding to the strong prices for imported commodities .
Joubert said: “This is a scary phenomenon and we don’t know when the cycle will end.
“Unfortunately, no matter how much South Africans try to tighten their belts, everything is just coming down on the consumer at the same time.”