it was not just the carrot that became more expensive in the hortifruti

Substitute fruits and vegetables, research more prices and reduce trips to restaurants. In times of food shortages, these measures became part of the routine of economist Luiza Botelho de Souza, 32.

The resident of São Paulo is a vegetarian, one of the strata of consumers most affected by the hortifruti inflationwhich gained strength in the first months of 2022.

“You get the feeling that money buys less and less. Then make product substitutions. Sometimes he tries to exchange a vegetable for a vegetable that costs less”, says Luiza, who has been a vegetarian for 12 years.

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“Eating out has also become more expensive. Without a doubt, I am leaving the house less today,” she adds.

One of the food prices that most scared the consumer was that of carrots. In 12 months until April, the item accumulated inflation of 195% in the country, according to the IPCA-15 (National Index of Consumer Prices Extended 15).

“Carrots are my favorite food, but I’ve been holding back on shopping lately,” says Luiza.

In the IPCA-15, calculated by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), tomatoes also recorded a rise 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 peppers (50.18%) did not escape the famine either.

Strawberries (46.79%), lettuce (46.22%), papaya (40.33%) and potato (38.68%) are other foods with significant advances in the same period.

“Comparing the prices of a product is a process that the vegetarian consumer was already doing. Now, there is an increment. More than comparing prices of a product in different places, there is a search for new choices, for foods that are cheaper”, says Ricardo Laurino, president of SVB (Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira).

“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 foods, tomato inflation was the one that drew the most attention.

“Instead of buying eight, we buy two or three now. We dance according to the dance of inflation”, she says.

With the pressure on her pocket, vegan digital influencer Amanda Goulart, 27, also intensified the search for cheaper prices and sought to replace foods when possible.

“I try to consume more seasonal fruits and vegetables to have more affordable prices, in addition to not wasting food”, says Amanda, who lives in Florianópolis.

“I didn’t stop consuming it, but before, I used carrots more in recipes. Today, I reduced. I look for nutrients in other foods.”

Weather problems drive up inflation

The increase in fruit and vegetables reflects a combination of factors, says researcher Felippe Serigati, from the FGV Agro study center.

One of them is the adverse weather between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. The South suffered a period of drought, and there were heavy rains in areas of the Southeast and Northeast.

The extreme phenomena punished plantations, reducing the supply of part of the food. With less goods on the market, there was pressure on final prices.

Meanwhile, production costs remained high, and spending on transporting goods between the countryside and the city rose due to higher fuel prices, says Serigati.

“Rising production costs combined with weather problems force food prices up. Fuel inflation didn’t provide refreshment either”, he analyzes.

“It is difficult to make projections for prices. Production costs will remain high. In terms of weather, you have to hope that São Pedro sends and removes the rain at the right time,” he adds.

Karina Cunha, 44, joined veganism in January 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. By cutting meat from the menu, the management consultant says she spent less on food.

However, this does not mean that it has not felt the effects of inflation.

With the scarcity of produce this year, the resident of São Paulo started to research more the prices charged by supermarkets in delivery applications. She often goes shopping online.

“Now, we are even more attentive”, he mentions.

A dish made without meat and with the options of rice, beans (carioca and black), lettuce, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and peppers accumulated inflation of 37.25% in 12 months until April, on average, indicates a survey 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 rise was driven by the surge of tomatoes and carrots.

The data also indicate that Brazilians who consume meat have not managed to escape inflation either.

In the 12 months through April, a dish made with the options of rice, beans (carioca and black), lettuce, potato, onion, tomato, chicken, egg and beef increased, on average, 23.53%.

That is, the meal without meat had a greater variation in prices, but that does not mean that it costs more than the one with beef or chicken cuts, ponders Peçanha. Meats, the researcher recalls, tend to have higher values ​​than vegetables.

“There is a scenario of food inflation caused especially by climate problems at the moment”, says the economist.

Before the rise in fruits and vegetables, the jump in meat prices had been in evidence during the pandemic.

Rising production costs and heated international demand pressured animal protein values ​​throughout the health crisis, analysts point out.

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