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Inflation heats up for a second consecutive month

Whenever I am feeling a little sorry for myself, a couple of things give me a bit of a reality check, including a look at the crazy cost of living and a drive through the streets of Cape Town to see how many people have been pushed into poverty as a result of it.

According to StatsSA, annual consumer inflation quickened in February 2024, rising to 5,6% from 5,3% in January and 5,1% in December.

Product categories that drove much of the upward momentum include housing & utilities, miscellaneous goods & services (most notably, insurance), food and non-alcoholic beverages (NAB), and transport.

A 10,3% month-on-month increase in medical aid premiums (in the miscellaneous goods & services category) took the annual rate for health insurance to 12,9%.

Eeek. I had better look at what my Discovery policy is costing me. Not that we can afford to do without it!

Premiums for all types of insurance have increased by 9,5% over the past year. We moved car insurance to Santam because of rather poor service from the aforementioned insurer. Plus it is cheaper! We had thought that consolidating all our policies with one insurer was a genius plan, but have come to realise that it may be more admin but it is better to use specialist services for the various different line items.

Fermented tea, anyone?

Back to CPI, inflation for food & NAB slowed to 6,1% in February. (Yay for our poorer compatriots, who use most of their money for food and shelter). Most categories recorded lower annual rates, except for hot beverages and oils & fats. The rate for hot beverages was driven higher by annual price increases for instant coffee (up 12,1%), black tea (up 10,1%) and Rooibos tea (up 8,1%).

The rate for oils & fats remained in negative territory, mainly due to a 12,9% annual decline in the price of sunflower oil. However, the fall in prices did not extend to peanut butter, which has increased in price by 14,0% since February 2023.

The lingering impact of rising egg prices continue to affect the milk, eggs & cheese category, with eggs 30,7% more expensive than a year ago. Although the current average price of a tray of six eggs (R25,48) is down from its peak in December 2023 (R25,85), it is higher than the February 2023 price tag (R21,13).

A little aside: do you know how hard it is to buy cruelty-free eggs in Cape Town?! Nearly impossible. The only commercial eggs that I am reliably informed are 100% cruelty-free, Usana, are available at Frankie Fenner and Nude Foods … sometimes.

Annual rice inflation increased further to 25,0% in February from 23,8% in January. A bag of rice (1 kg) would have set you back R31,83 in February, sharply up from R23,54 a year ago. Pizza & pies – also classified with rice in the bread & cereals category – have seen sharp price increases too, rising by 17,5% in the 12 months to February.

Not all was bad news in the bread & cereals category, however. Several products are cheaper than a year ago, including bread flour (down 5,7%), rusks (down 2,7%), ready-mix flour (down 2,2%), pasta (down 2,1%) and macaroni (down 0,5%).

The transport category registered an annual increase of 5,4%, driven higher mainly by increases in vehicle and fuel prices.

Let’s all spare a thought for the people who really don’t have a penny to spare, often including the people who take care of our homes and gardens.

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