While South Africa's annual food inflation has eased slightly, consumers are still forking out significantly more cash for products like vegetables, maize meal, milk, flour and coffee than they did a year ago.

Statistics South Africa has announced that annual consumer inflation slowed to 6.8% in April from 7.1% in March, making it the lowest reading since May 2022 when the rate was 6.5%. The monthly change in the consumer price index (CPI) was 0.4% in April 2023.

Annual inflation for food and non-alcoholic beverages – which hit a 14-year high in March – eased very slightly to 13.9%, down from 14%.


Vegetable prices soar

Stats SA said the bread & cereals price index increased by 20.8% in the 12 months to April, slightly higher than March’s reading of 20.3%, but lower than the recent peak of 21.8% recorded in January.

On average, vegetables were 23.1% more expensive in April 2023 compared with April 2022. The agency noted that this is the highest annual rate since November 2007 – more than 15 years ago. Products pushing up the rate include onions (up 52.8%), carrots (up 29.8%), peppers (up 25.0%) and potatoes (up 24.4%).

The milk, eggs & cheese product group recorded an annual price increase of 14.5% – the largest rise in 14 years (since January 2009). The average price of a 2-litre carton of fresh full-cream milk increased from R30.14 to R35.88 in the 12 months to April. Over the same period, the average price of a kilogram of cheddar cheese climbed from R118.24 to R135.11 and a tray of six eggs from R20.38 to R21.59.

Coffee lovers are feeling the pinch too. Annual inflation for non-alcoholic beverages was 10.4% in April, the highest rate since January 2010. Products that registered higher than average price changes were ground coffee or beans (up 17.8%), instant coffee (up 14.8%), dairy blends (up 19.2%) and fruit juices (up 16.5%).

Meat and oils & fats are bucking the trend. Those who enjoy their steak will be glad to know that meat inflation slowed for a second consecutive month, cooling to 9.5% from 10.6% in March. Inflation for oils & fats slowed for an eighth consecutive month, tumbling from 16.0% in March to 9.9% in April. The last time this rate was in single-digit territory was November 2020, Stats SA said.


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