How long has it been since you filled your shopping cart at the supermarket? If you still can, how many products have you changed and/or reduced your consumption of? Even after this juggling between gondolas, how many? more have you had to pay for the same fair in the last three years?
Answers may vary depending on the economic situation of each consumer, but it is generally accepted that, starting from low income middle classall families are experiencing a loss of monthly income due to rising inflation in Brazil.
For three years without real earnings from the minimum wage. Those people who have no other choice than their own livelihood are plunged into poverty and food insecurity.
To give you an idea, according to the United Nations (UN) global index, calculated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food prices reached in March of this year the highest level in the last 61 years.
The problem mainly affects low-income social strata, whose basket of goods and services has more inflationary pressure.
In this three-episode series northeast diary presents the stories behind the numbers, the causes and how to correct the distortions caused by overall growth.
We visited four families in the Bom Jardim and Granja Lisboa neighborhoods of Fortaleza who are losing purchasing power and are forced to forgo food and even some meals in order to survive.
“God Keeps Me”
In the united home of cleaning lady Cicera Batista, 49, in Lisbon’s Granja neighborhood, images of saints scattered across green walls punctuated by cement stains depict more than religious faith can justify: the search for meaning that sustains reality as hunger knocks at the door.
“What’s holding me back is God,” she said. The report arrived at her home around 9:30 am on a Wednesday in April. Cicera did not eat that day. She saved the bread she managed to buy for later. .
Thus, what would become the first of his two meals of the day would consist of breakfast and lunch. On that day, he said, the refrigerator was not empty thanks to donations.
Living in scarcity has always been a reality for Cícera. After decrease in income because of the aftermath of the accident three years ago, she had already crossed red meat off her shopping list.
The situation worsened due to a complete loss of income at the beginning of the pandemic, but it was alleviated by emergency assistance (conditional assistance).
Currently, the family, which includes two children, lives on 700 reais, of which 400 reais comes from Auxílio Brasil (renamed Bolsa Família) and 300 reais from the municipal program Bolsa Jovem.
Even though the pantry had been depleted for about three years, it was still possible to guarantee part of the main dishes at the table. In recent months, however, inflation has pushed vegetables, milk, and other meats off the family’s menu.
The 21-year-old daughter is looking for a job and is taking a pre-university course at Ceara State University. (wese). Most of the money that the girl receives goes to snacks outside the home, school supplies and bus tickets. The rest goes to household expenses.
The youngest son, 17, can eat all the food he needs just because he spends the day at a public school.
“Since February, I have stopped buying vegetables, milk and butter. I still manage to save 10 reais a month to buy bananas, oranges or lemons from a person who sells them at the door, ”Cisera said, adding that she saves fruit only for her children.
Her diet is limited to lunch and dinner, with only rice and beans on her plate. Sometimes Cicera manages to buy pieces of chicken or receive ground beef as a gift.
“If it wasn’t for Ingrid (community leader) and my daughter, I would have starved to death,” he complained.
Of the 700 BRL received monthly, 320 BRL is used to pay bills for electricity, water, gas and internet (hired during the pandemic to educate children). The rest goes to food and transportation.
“It is difficult for me and for everyone. There are many suffering families here, people who receive 400 BRL from Bolsa Família and still have to pay 300 BRL in rent,” he said, pointing to the community.
In the midst of hardship, Cicera tries to complete seventh grade through the Youth and Adult Education (EJA) Program but nearly gives up.
The cost of bus tickets is high with an already insufficient budget for food, in addition to feeling weak and dizzy oftenwhich makes learning difficult.
Seeking medical attention at health centers was also exhausting. There is only money for the trip. She can’t take it anymore. When the pain hurts, he buys an analgin tablet for 2.50 reais, the only medicine available to Cicera.
Inflation is highest among the poorest
Rising food prices exacerbate economic asymmetries. In Brazil, families low income (up to R$1,808.79) inflation was 12% in the past 12 months, according to the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea).
Those with a household income greater than R$17,764.49 registered a cumulative variation of 10%. This is due to the fact that the set of products and services varies depending on each social stratum.
For example, for low-income consumers, inflationary pressure on food in March was associated with rising prices for rice (2.7%), legumes (6.4%), carrots (31.5%), potatoes (4.9% ), milk. (9.3%), eggs (7.1%) and French bread (3%).
The adjustment of city bus fares (1.3%) and electricity (1.1%) also affected the budget of this population.
On the other hand, inflation for the highest paid people is in transport, reflecting an increase of 6.7% for gasoline, 13.7% for diesel and 8% for cars per application.
How influence reaches Ceará
Daniel Suliano, Public Policy Analyst at the Institute for Research and Economic Strategy of Ceara (Ipeche), stressed that the Broad National Consumer Price Index (IPCA) in the Fortaleza Metropolitan Region (RMF) reached 11.31%. the last 12 months (until March).
The food group for this period reached 10.61%. He adds that in 2021, annual inflation measured by the same index was already 10.63% and 9.47%, respectively, indicating strong price pressure since then.
“This, without a doubt, has a greater impact on low-income people, given that the food group makes up more than 20% of the budget of these families,” he estimated.
“In addition, there was a drop in real wages, which led to the problem of a short blanket: to cover your legs, you need to open your head within the logic of the family budget,” he stressed.
Suliano emphasizes that more than 1/5 of the family budget in Ceara goes to food.
“1/5 of those who earn BRL 1,000 are different from those who earn BRL 10,000. In addition to consuming the largest share in relative terms of those who earn less, a scenario of continuous price increases further reduces the purchasing power of the poorest,” he muses.
Brutal Choice Between Meals: “Is It Lunch or Lunch”
“In February, my husband began to get frustrated when he saw that my children were hungry. He left the house around 12 noon, saying he was going to have a drink so he could muster up the courage to do something stupid and buy food for the boys. :30 p.m., called me and said he was under arrest.”
Report from housewife Natalia de Souza, aged 35, mother of seven children (3 months, 2 years, 5 years, 8 years, 13 years, 15 years and 17 years).
The family, which has lived for more than a year on a single income of 730 reais from the current Auxílio Brasil, could not bear the recent food increase.
“Four months ago I stopped paying for electricity to buy food. When I get a Bolsa Família, I spend all the money to pay the man in the wine cellar where I buy it on credit. Nothing left, he calculated.
At the local market, Natalia buys groceries from the usual basket: rice, beans, eggs, pasta, bread and saltine crackers. Fruits and vegetables are no longer included in the diet of children who already suffer from a restrictive diet.
“The doctor at the post said they were missing the calcium ‘business’ and also needed to eat fiber. They also gave me a vitamin, but I could not buy it, ”he describes.
Natalia adds that sometimes she can buy garlic, lemon or parsley to complement her meals.
During the week, older children at school have a regular diet. At home caring for younger children, the mother cannot eat normally. Breakfast is bread, rarely accompanied by powdered juice.
For lunch, rice, beans and an egg. Dinner – leftovers.
“There is no afternoon tea. In the life of those who do not have a fortune, this is either a snack or lunch, ”he confirms.
She says that she does not visit her husband because she is ashamed of such a situation, except that there is no one to leave her children and money for public transport with.
“It has always been difficult. When he [marido] I worked, I received about 900 reais, there was never enough money even to buy furniture, but at least enough for baby food,” he recalls.
More than half of the population already lived in food insecurity
According to the National Study on Food Insecurity in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Brazil by the Brazilian Sovereignty and Food Security Research Network (Rede Penssan).
The percentage represents 116.8 million Brazilians in this state. Of these, 43.4 million (20.5% of the population) were undernourished (moderate or severe food insecurity) and 19.1 million (9%) were hungry (severe insecurity).
Figures compiled between December 5 and 24, 2020 reflect the impact of the health crisis on these families. But coordinator of research and advocacy for social and economic justice at the Oxford Hunger Committee (Oxfam Brazil)Jefferson Nascimento, emphasizes that if this study were carried out today, “it would show a much higher number.”
“At the time of the study, there was still an emergency service. So this scenario got worse. Currently, there is Auxílio Brasil, but the coverage is much less than that of the emergency service,” he notes.
The Cicera and Natalia trajectory mentioned in this article carefully studies the current state of this population.
In the next issue, this Wednesday (05.11), you will hear the story of two other women who are having difficulty adjusting their family budget due to high food prices. On Thursday (05.12) the report discusses possible ways to prevent an increase in hunger and food insecurity.