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Cooking oil prices pose a challenge for informal fast food traders' livelihood

The high price of cooking oil is making it hard for informal fast-food traders to sustain their businesses and keep their customers. Picture by Cebisile Mbonani

In February this year, Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), published a report stating that the price of a 750ml bottle of cooking oil costs almost R7 more in January 2022 compared to the same time the previous year. A 750ml bottle of cooking oil now costs around R32.99, whereas it cost around R24.99 in January. Cooking oil prices have recently spiked because of the war between Russia with Ukraine. These two countries, combined, are a major exporter of sunflower oil globally. Ukraine alone produces almost half of the world’s cooking oil.

Veronica Ngwenya, a 37-year-old who stays in Senaoane, Soweto, says she used to use sunflower oil to marinade chicken gizzards, chicken feet, and chicken heads that she sells in Dlamini. She has now stopped using cooking oil “because it is too expensive.” She uses water instead. She sells the feet and heads for R1 each and gizzards for R5.

Veronica Ngwenya (37)-year-old sells chicken gizzards, chicken feet, and chicken heads in Dlamini, Soweto.
Veronica Ngwenya (37)-year-old sells chicken gizzards, chicken feet, and chicken heads in Dlamini, Soweto. Picture By Nkululeko Zondi

In Jeppestown, Joseph Ndlovu sells mainly fat cakes, fried chips, russians and viennas. He says that times are tough for him and his business. Ndlovu says that he is now “forced to decrease the scale of fat cakes and chips rather than increase prices , butsome customers have started to complain.” He feels he might lose his customers , butthere is nothing he can do as “I have also increased the price of viennas and russians , butI sell it cheaper if it is not fried.”

Matilda Mudau sells fried chips and kotas (bunny chows) with her husband in their home in Dlamini.

“I used to have a specific brand that I buy in Lenasia where it is cheaper for us traders,” she said. Now she no longer has a specific place to buy from, she buys wherever it is cheap and the brand she can afford.

She said plans on increasing her prices and her customers are not happy about it, even though they also know that sunflower oil is now expensive. All her kotas will be increased by R2. The R7 chips by R3 and then the rest will be increased by R5.


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