The inflation rate for February increased again for the first time in four months to 7,0% from 6,9% in January, but the most alarming statistic for February is that food inflation was the highest since April 2009 when it was 13,6%.
Food and non-alcoholic beverages and transport were the main contributors to the inflation rate in February. The prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages have again increased by 13,6% over the past 12 months, up from 13,4% recorded in January.
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According to data released by Statistics SA, the consumer price index (CPI) also increased by 0,7% between January and February, representing the largest monthly increase since July 2022 when it was 1,5%.
While the annual inflation for bread and cereals was 20,5%, slightly lower than the 21,8% in January, the price of maize meal, an important staple, continues to see high rates of inflation, with its price index increasing by 2,2% between January and February, taking the annual rate to 34,7%.
Other notable monthly price increases were also recorded for rusks that increased by 6,8%, macaroni that increased by 4,4% and savoury biscuits that increased by 4,0%.
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Meat, dairy and other foods also increased
Meat inflation also continues to accelerate, reaching 11,4% in February from 11,2% in January, the highest annual increase for meat since February 2018 when it was also 11,4%.
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However, the monthly rate dropped to 0,2% from 2,6% in January to make it the lowest monthly increase for meat since February 2022 when there was no change.
The price of milk, eggs and cheese increased by 12,3% in the twelve months to February, up from 10,9% in January and notable annual increases were recorded for cheddar cheese (+15,2%), feta cheese (+14,9%), custard (+14,9%), fresh low-fat milk (+14,7%) and long-life full cream milk (+14,3%).
Annual inflation for the oils and fats category slowed for a sixth consecutive month, edging lower to 16,7%, the lowest reading since April 2021, when it was also 16,7%.
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The category ‘other food’ also increased at a shocking rate, with its annual inflation rate climbing from 7,7% in June 2022 to 15,0% in February 2023, with a monthly rate of 2,3% in February.
Products in this category recording high monthly price increases include baby milk formula (+7,2%), baby cereal (+4,6%), baking powder (+ 2,8%) and tomato sauce (+2,5%).
The annual increase for cold beverages registered 8,5%, with a monthly increase of 2,7%. Monthly increases were recorded for fruit juices (+4,0%), fizzy drinks in a can (+3,3%) and fizzy drinks in a bottle (+3,1%).
Food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 13,6% year-on-year and contributed 2,3 percentage points to the total CPI annual rate of 7,0%.
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Fuel prices increased by a relatively modest 0,9% between January and February, and the annual rate slowed to 10,9%, the lowest reading since March 2021 when it was 2,4%. Transport prices increased by 9,9% year-on-year and contributed 1,4 percentage points
Housing and utilities increased by 4,0% year-on-year and contributed 1,0 percentage point. Miscellaneous goods and services increased by 6,1% year-on-year and contributed 0,9 of a percentage point.
In February, the annual inflation rate for goods remained unchanged at 9,5% and for services 4,6% up from 4,3% in January.
Medical services (doctors, dentists and hospital ward fees) are surveyed once a year in February and this year it showed that prices increased by 5,3% in February 2023, compared to the 5,0% increase recorded in February 2022. The index for health insurance increased by 4,4% between January and February as a number of companies implemented annual premium increases.