Skyrocketing garlic and ginger prices prompted the National Consumer Commission (NCC) to launch an investigation into allegations of price gouging.
According to the NCC, the investigation followed an outcry by consumers reported in the media, with regard to the alleged excessive pricing by various suppliers on both products.
The commission said it would be probing seven retailers for alleged price gouging. These were Food Lover’s Market, Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Boxer Superstores, Cambridge Foods, the Shoprite Group, and the Spar Group.
“The law defines price gouging as an unfair or unreasonable price increase that does not correspond to, or is not equivalent to, the increase in the cost of providing that good or service,” the NCC explained.
Acting Consumer Commissioner Thezi Mabuza said the commission initiated this investigation, as empowered by Section 71 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), following the public outcry.
“The purpose of the CPA is, amongst other [functions], to reduce and ameliorate any disadvantages experienced in accessing any supply of goods or services by consumers.”
She said the investigation was not limited to these suppliers, and urged consumers throughout the country to monitor the market and file complaints with the commission where they suspected excessive price increases.
Ginger’s popularity had especially increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its supposed properties to mitigate symptoms.
Food Lover’s Market earlier issued a notice about rising ginger prices. According to the retailer, the escalation in ginger prices was due to an increase in demand and a shortage of supply, which had an impact on market prices.
Jurgens Lubbe, a ginger farmer near Hazyview, confirmed that there was currently a severe shortage of ginger, which had resulted in prices surging.
He said that before the outbreak of the pandemic, ginger was retailing at between R90/kg and R100/kg. Now, the price was about R360/kg to R400/kg.
According to Lubbe, ginger was generally harvested from June to July. “However, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the demand for ginger has increased tremendously and so has the producer price for ginger. To meet the growing demand, producers started removing their ginger as early as March. ”
He explained that by selling ginger earlier, the annual volumes that producers supplied to the market fell 50%, and this had led to severe shortages.
“If producers start taking out ginger even earlier in order to meet the demand, they will only be able to deliver a quarter of their capacity.”