Food Sector Update – A different kind of oil crisis

Rising food inflation threatens to significantly impact the SA consumer, food producers, and retailers. While some of the price pressure can be attributed to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, our analysis shows that the inflationary pressure has been building since 2021. Factors such as the Indonesian government’s export ban of palm oil, ongoing migrant labour shortages in Malaysia, and India’s lower import tariffs contributed to the inflation in edible oils. Encouragingly though, South Africa has a favourable vegetable oil production outlook for 2022 which could dampen some of the impact. SA imports c. 40% of its wheat demand and the impact of higher wheat prices could be widespread, affecting anything from biscuits to bread and pastas. Maize prices are also impacted by the Ukrainian crisis, but SA’s maize harvest season starts in May and the 2022 maize crop is expected to be the fourth largest maize harvest on record. We think maize prices could trade lower in the coming months as the maize stock levels rebuild. Inflation in fish protein has remained surprisingly stable, while chicken feed cost inflation could drive up prices of this meat. Arabica prices have more than doubled in the past year as coffee stockpiles reached a two-decade low due to severely dry weather in Brazil. The weaker rand and higher crude oil prices exacerbate the overall inflation situation. We reviewed the price changes in supermarkets of some staple foods that form part of the CPI basket, which highlights when key price changes took effect over the past 16 months. SA consumers food spend accounts for 54% of total retail spend and high food price increases could crowd out other discretionary retail spending.