Replace fruits and vegetables, do more research on prices, and cut down on restaurant trips. During times of food shortages, these measures have become part of the daily routine of 32-year-old economist Luisa Botelho de Souza.
The São Paulo resident is a vegetarian, one of the segments of consumers most affected by the hortifruit inflation that has gained momentum in the first months of 2022.
“You get the feeling that money can buy less and less. So you are replacing products. Sometimes you try to trade a vegetable for a vegetable that costs less,” notes Louise, who has been a vegetarian for 12 years.
“Eating out has also become more expensive. Without a doubt, today I leave the house less, ”he adds.
One of the food prices that scared the consumer the most was the price of carrots. In the 12 months to April, the commodity accumulated 195% inflation in the country, according to IPCA-15 (Extended National Consumer Price Index 15).
“Carrots are my favorite food, but lately I’ve been holding back from shopping,” Louise says.
In the IPCA-15 calculated by IBGS (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), tomatoes also recorded an increase of more than 100% in 12 months. Until April, the increase was 117.48%.
Zucchini (86.83%), melons (63.26%), cabbage (59.38%), watermelons (52.64%), peppers (50.18%) did not avoid hunger.
Strawberries (46.79%), lettuce (46.22%), papaya (40.33%), and potatoes (38.68%) are other products that saw a significant increase in sales during the same period.
“Comparing the price of a product is a process that the vegetarian consumer has already done. Now there is growth. More than comparing the price of a product in different places, it is a search for new options, cheaper products.” , says Ricardo Laurino, president of the SVB (Brazilian Vegetarian Society).
“For example, if you used to eat more oranges, go there and start eating more tangerines. [tangerina]. There are products with similar characteristics,” he adds.
For him, among the products, the inflation of tomatoes attracted the most attention.
“Instead of buying eight, we are now buying two or three. We dance according to the dance of inflation,” he says.
Due to the pressure on her pocket, 27-year-old vegan digital influencer Amanda Goulart has also stepped up her search for cheaper prices and sought to replace products whenever possible.
“I try to eat more seasonal fruits and vegetables to have more affordable prices, in addition to not throwing food away,” says Amanda, a Florianopolis resident.
“I haven’t stopped eating them, but I used to use carrots more in recipes. Today I reduced it. I’m looking for nutrients in other foods.”
Weather problems fuel inflation
According to researcher Felippe Serigati of the FGV Agro Research Center, the increase in fruits and vegetables reflects a combination of factors.
One of them is unfavorable weather between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. The south experienced a period of drought, and heavy rains fell in areas of the Southeast and Northeast.
Extreme events have punished the plantations by reducing the supply of some food. Due to the smaller number of goods on the market, there was pressure on the final prices.
At the same time, production costs remained high, and the cost of transporting goods between the countryside and the city rose due to higher fuel prices, Serigati says.
“Rising production costs coupled with weather problems are pushing up food prices. Fuel inflation also did not bring relief, ”he analyzes.
“It’s hard to make price predictions. Production costs will remain high. As for the weather, we must hope that San Pedro will send and remove the rain at the right time,” he adds.
Karina Cunha, 44, joined the vegan diet in January 2020, shortly before the start of the pandemic. The management consultant says that by removing meat from the menu, she spends less on food.
However, this does not mean that she did not feel the impact of inflation.
Due to food shortages this year, a Sao Paulo resident has begun to look more into the prices supermarkets charge for delivery. She often goes shopping on the Internet.
“Now we are even more attentive,” he notes.
The finished dish rises 37.25%
A dish made without meat and with options of rice, beans (carioca and black), lettuce, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and peppers increased inflation by 37.25% in the 12 months to April, on average, a survey of economists shows Matheus Pesagna from FGV Ibre (Brazilian Institute of Economics Fundação Getulio Vargas).
The calculation is based on CPI (consumer price index) data from FGV Ibre. According to Pechani, the increase was driven by a surge in sales of tomatoes and carrots.
The data also shows that meat-eating Brazilians have also failed to escape inflation.
In the 12 months to April, the number of dishes made from rice, beans (carioca and black), lettuce, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, chicken, eggs and beef increased by an average of 23.53%.
That is, food without meat had a greater spread in prices, but this does not mean that it costs more than food with beef or chicken cuts, Pechanya reflects. Meat, the researcher recalls, has a higher value than vegetables.
“Now there is a scenario of food inflation caused, in particular, by climate problems,” the economist says.
Prior to the rise in prices for fruits and vegetables, a jump in meat prices was observed during the pandemic.
Analysts note that rising production costs and increased international demand have put pressure on the cost of animal protein throughout the health crisis.