Replace fruits and vegetables, research more about prices and reduce travel to restaurants. In times of food shortages, these measures became part of the routine of economist Luiza Botelho de Souza, 32.
The São Paulo resident is a vegetarian, one of the consumer groups most affected by hortifruti inflation, which gained momentum in the first months of 2022.
“You have the feeling that money is buying less and less. So you replace products. Sometimes you try to swap a vegetable for a vegetable that costs less,” says Luiza, who has been a vegetarian for 12 years.
“Eating out has also become more expensive. Without a doubt I am going out less today,” he adds.
One of the food prices consumers feared most was carrots. According to the IPCA-15 (National Index of Consumer Price Extended 15), the product had reached an inflation rate of 195% in the country in 12 months to April.
“Carrots are my favorite food, but I’ve been a little hesitant about shopping lately,” says Luiza.
In the IPCA-15, calculated by the IBGE (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%), melon (63.26%), cabbage (59.38%), watermelon (52.64%) and bell pepper (50.18%) also did not escape the famine.
Strawberries (46.79%), lettuce (46.22%), papaya (40.33%) and potato (38.68%) are other foods with significant progress over the same period.
“Comparing the prices of a product is a process that the vegetarian consumer has already been doing. Now there is an increase. More than comparing the prices of a product in different places, there is a search for new choices, to foods that are cheaper,” said Ricardo Laurino, president of the SVB (Brazilian Vegetarian Association).
“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, the inflation of tomatoes among the foodstuffs was the one that attracted the most attention.
“Instead of eight, we now buy two or three. We dance according to the inflation dance,” he reports.
With the pressure on her pocket, vegan digital influencer Amanda Goulart, 27, also intensified the search for cheaper prices and tried to substitute food where possible.
“I try to consume more seasonal fruits and vegetables to get affordable prices, in addition to not wasting food,” said Amanda, a resident of Florianópolis.
“I didn’t stop, but before I used carrots more in recipes. Today I’ve reduced it. I look for nutrients in other foods.”
Weather problems are driving up inflation
The increase in fruit and vegetables is related to a combination of factors, says researcher Felippe Serigati of the FGV Agro study center.
One is the bad weather between late 2021 and early 2022. The south experienced a period of drought and heavy rainfall in areas in the southeast and northeast.
The extreme phenomena punished plantations, reducing the supply of some of the food. As there were fewer goods on the market, final prices came under pressure.
Meanwhile, production costs remained high and spending on transporting goods between rural and urban areas rose due to higher fuel prices, Serigati said.
“Rising production costs in combination with weather problems are pushing up food prices. Fuel inflation also did not help,” he analyzes.
“It is difficult to make price forecasts. Production costs will remain high. In terms of weather, we have to hope that São Pedro sends and drains the rain at the right time,” he adds.
Karina Cunha, 44, joined veganism in January 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. By removing meat from the menu, the management consultant indicates that he spends less on food.
However, this does not mean that it has not felt the effects of inflation.
With the scarcity of products this year, the São Paulo resident began to do more research into the prices supermarkets charge for delivery applications. She often goes shopping online.
“Now we are even more attentive,” he says.
Plate made rises 37.25%
A dish made without meat and with a choice of rice, beans (carioca and black), lettuce, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and peppers accumulated inflation of 37.25% in 12 months through April, on average, points on a study by economist Matheus Peçanha, from FGV Ibre (Brazilian Institute of Economics of Fundação Getulio Vargas).
The calculation is based on data from the CPI (Consumer Price Index), from FGV Ibre. According to Peçanha, the increase was driven by the emergence of tomatoes and carrots.
The data also shows that Brazilians who consume meat have not escaped inflation either.
In the 12 months to April, a dish made with the options rice, beans (carioca and black), lettuce, potato, onion, tomato, chicken, egg and beef increased by an average of 23.53%.
That is, the meal without meat had greater price variation, but that doesn’t mean it cost more than those with beef or chicken pieces, Peçanha thinks. Meat, the researcher recalls, usually has higher values than vegetables.
“There is currently a scenario of food inflation mainly caused by climate problems,” says the economist.
Before the increase in fruit and vegetables, the increase in meat prices during the pandemic was visible.
Rising production costs and heated international demand have put animal protein levels under pressure throughout the health crisis, analysts point out.