As 2024 gains momentum and the recent holiday festivities fade from memory, there is good news and bad news: the good news is that annual headline inflation has come down; the bad news is that some food prices are still going up.
These include eggs, meat, milk, cheese, and fruit.
Stats SA revealed on Wednesday that annual consumer price inflation was 5.1 percent in December 2023, down from 5.5 percent in November and 5.9 percent in October.
Still, this means that the prices of consumer foods and goods have gone up by more than five percent over the past year; the main contributors to this price growth are food and non-alcoholic beverages, housing and utilities, goods and services, and transport.
On a month-to-month basis, however, there is some good news.
Rising food costs
The inflation rate for food and non-alcoholic beverages was 8.5 percent in December, lower that November’s 9.0 percent.
Breaking foods down into sub-categories, the data reveals that bread and cereal prices came down by 0.2 percent between November and December. This brings the annual rate of inflation for this category to 7.5 percent.
Maize meal prices declined by 0.9 percent, with the average price of a 2kg bag of maize meal dropping from R37.04 in November to R36,64 in December.
Oils and fats continue to come down in price, recording a 5.9 percent decrease in December. On a monthly basis, cooking oil prices dropped by 1.6 percent between November and December. Stats SA says the average price of a 750 ml bottle of sunflower oil was R35,82 in December. This is lower than the February 2023 peak of R37,47 and well below the high of R45,33 recorded in July 2022.
While the sugar, sweets, and desserts category as a whole recorded a softer annual rate in December, sugar prices continued to escalate. White sugar is now 20.1 percent more expensive than a year ago while brown sugar is 26.6 percent more expensive.
Foods and drinks that became more expensive between November and December include meat, milk, eggs, cheese, fish, and fruit. Annual meat inflation ticked up to 3.9 percent in December from 3.5 percent in November. Sharp annual price increases continue to haunt poultry products. These are some of the price increases for this meat:
– chicken giblets (up 18.5 percent)
– fresh chicken portions (up 14.6 percent)
– non-IQF frozen portions (up 8.8 percent)
– whole chickens (up 8.4 percent)
– IQF chicken portions (up 6.4 percent).
The inflation index for milk, eggs, and cheese increased by 14.5 percent in the 12 months to December. This is higher than November’s rate of 13.9 percent. The 12-month increase in egg prices was 38.0 percent, slightly lower than November’s 39.9 percent, the report states.
Housing costs going up
Price inflation for housing and utilities reached 5.7 percent, the highest annual increase since May 2017 when the rate was also 5.7 percent. Actual and imputed rentals both recorded a quarterly increase of 0.8 percent, taking the annual rate for actual rentals to 3.1 percent and for imputed rentals to 3.0 percent.
Slow increase in transport costs
Stats SA reveals that transport prices increased by 2.6 percent in the 12 months to December 2023. This is much lower than the annual inflation rate of 13.9 percent recorded in December 2022. The slowdown is mainly a result of lower fuel prices that decreased by 2.5 percent over the previous 12 months, and by 2.7 percent between November and December.