by Tafara Mav

Inflation levels worrying

Comparing prices from 40 years ago

We track the discrepancies in the costs of bread and fuel over a 40-year period.
old world.jpg

Statistics South Africa pegged food and non-alcoholic beverages inflation for the period between January 2011 and January 2012 at 10.3%, albeit lower than the 11.1% recorded in December 2011 – but disconcerting nonetheless.

The cost of living is certainly higher than it was in South Africa circa 40 years ago.

It would explain why people look back at that period, the ‘olden days’, with whimsical longing and refer to it as ‘the golden years’, despite the obvious backdrop of political unrest and legacy of apartheid – a time very much turbulent yet interesting, with major historical events having taken place such as the birth of the Rosenkowitz sextuplets in Cape Town in 1974, the Soweto riots that began in 1976, and the Transkei being declared an ‘independent homeland’ in the same year.

It was a time when, some wistfully recall, milk was delivered to the front of your yard and stayed there until you collected it, or when you did not need to leave your valuables in the house in order to take a night-time stroll.

Historically, mining and agriculture comprised the bedrock of the nation’s economy but, by early 1970, manufacturing output had surpassed the two.

By the mid-1970s, growth in both manufacturing and agriculture stagnated, resulting in a slowed down economy exacerbated by declining gold revenues.

There was a slight reprieve in matters at the end of the decade when gold prices were allowed to fl oat relative to the rand, sparking high gold prices. In 1976, the country plunged into its first recession, egged on by radical oil price hikes.

Despite this seemingly desperate scenario, a retrospective journey back to the 1970s shows the disparity between, at the very least, prices then and now.

The price of a standard loaf of bread at the beginning of that decade was about R0.25c, which then rose to between R0.50c and R0.55c a loaf toward the end of the 1970s.

Those sorts of figures today would likely be an incremental change in the price of bread, with the average price of a loaf of bread currently being R9.19 and R8.23 for a 700g loaf of white bread and brown bread respectively.

Even the petrol price back then was a scandalous steal at R0.8c per litre – a far cry from the single highest petrol price recorded in the country in September 2012, of R11.97 per litre.

In addition, the weather was decidedly more endearing. It is estimated that South Africa has been 2% hotter and 6% drier in the 10 years between 1997 and 2006 in comparison to the 1970s which, within itself, carries serious implications for food production in the country.

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Issue 46


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