February 23rd, 2011
10:46 AM GMT
If you are poor, one of the cheapest nutritious fast foods you can buy is a “vetkoek” or “magwenya” from a makeshift shop on a Johannesburg pavement.
Magwenya resemble donuts and make for a filling breakfast for thousands of South Africans, who buy them outside taxi ranks and train stations.
These days, however, even vetkoek are becoming pricier. Food inflation has started to hit southern Africa, belatedly. Prices last year were relatively low compared to the global average because local harvests and supply conditions were more favorable than normal. Now, economists warn people living in sub-Saharan Africa to brace for food price shocks.
The cost of one vetkoek is now one Rand; that’s only about 13 U.S. cents but it’s double the price from 2008, when I took a mini-poll among vetkoek sellers during another bout of price shocks.
Oil, flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and sometimes mince, are the ingredients in vetkoek. Most of these foodstuffs will average a 10-12% increase over the year, says one business leader in the food industry.
Cooking oil prices are due to really soar, and further impact the cost of vetkoek, because sunflower seed prices were reportedly up more than 50% year on year.
All this means that the southern African poor will continue to spend most of their disposable income on basic food. Others will forgo little luxuries.
And if prices rise to the high levels that economists predict they will there is the expectation that many more people will be hungry this coming winter.
So my questions are: Do you think food security is one of the most pressing global concerns? What are the solutions? Are you already feeling the pinch of high food prices?
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