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Soaring Potato Prices Lead Surge in Food Costs


Potato Prices Surge: A Blow to Household Budgets

Potato lovers may find their favorite spud-based dishes becoming a luxury as the price of potatoes has skyrocketed by 63.8% in just one year. This staple, essential for items like fried chips and potato salad, now costs R22.82/kg, a steep increase from R13.93/kg in October 2022. The surge in prices is attributed to elevated costs in transport, manure, and farm maintenance. It is the food item that has seen the highest price increase, with the costs of transport, manure, and farm maintenance to blame.

Notable Increases in Other Food Items

Apart from potatoes, several other food items witness significant price hikes, affecting consumers’ grocery budgets. Tomatoes, oranges, eggs, bananas, black/Ceylon tea, and white sugar have all experienced notable increases, ranging from 10.7% to 42.1% compared to a year ago. Excluding potatoes, these are the highest increases compared to one year ago: Bananas, Ceylon/black tea, White sugar, Rice.

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Factors Driving Food Price Volatility

The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy’s Food Inflation Brief for October highlights broader trends affecting various grocery items. Factors beyond farmers’ control, such as a weaker Rand, impacting the cost of imported inputs, and persistent load shedding, contribute to heightened production costs. A weaker Rand, which affects the cost of imported inputs such as fuel and fertiliser, together with the persistent pressure of load shedding remains the major driver of heightened input cost.

Price Drops and Optimism

While the report underscores the challenges in the agricultural sector, it notes that some food items have seen price reductions over the past year. These include white bread, beef, mutton/lamb, fresh whole chicken, eggs, lettuce, beetroot, canned mixed vegetables, pineapple, fresh cream, and plant oil. There is some good news, though, as prices of some food items have come down over the past year.

Mixed Picture for Households

Overall, the National Agricultural Marketing Council’s food basket cost is currently R1,221.52, reflecting a 10% increase from a year ago. The report emphasizes the complexities driving food prices, urging a renewed focus on safety programs and initiatives in the agriculture sector. This is R111.94 (10 percent) higher than a year ago, and R23.84 more (2.0 percent) more than last month.

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