The Guardian July 31, 2002


South Africa: Call for lower food prices

The South African Communist Party (SACP) has welcomed a call by the 
Chief Executive Officer of the Shoprite group of companies for suppliers to 
reduce the price of food products after the recent improvement in the rand-
dollar exchange.

Calling this "an important step forward in ensuring that food prices can be 
made affordable", the SACP also stressed that " a sustainable solution is 
required".

South Africa's food price index rose 11.4 per cent in 2001, compared to a 
rise in non-food prices of 3 per cent. The prices of maize and other basic 
foods have risen even further since then, devastating the majority of the 
population. South African workers typically spend more than a third of 
their income on food.

The underlying cause of the soaring price of maize, the SACP says, appears 
to be not just low supplies, but speculative pricing and concentration of 
ownership. The benefits of zero taxation on some basic foods are not being 
passed on to consumers, meaning that producers and retail chains are 
profiteering at the expence of the poor.

For example, in most shops, brown bread, which is exempt from the VAT 
(value-added tax), costs the same as or more than white bread.

In the longer term, says the SACP, high food prices are associated with 
lower investment in agriculture and stagnant production.

The SACP has demanded an end to taxation of basic foodstuffs, arguing that 
"food prices and the rise in poverty should also be related to the question 
of a comprehensive social security program".

Another SACP initiative will be a door-to-door canvass to help register all 
those who qualify for state social grants. Many pensioners, disabled 
persons, orphans, and others who are supposed to receive such grants are 
simply not registered.

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