Global Food Crisis

Growing Economy Brings Price Pain to Brazilian Eaters

Sabrina Valle in Rio de Janeiro
for National Geographic News
July 17, 2008

Part 14 of a special series that explores the local faces of the world's worst food crisis in decades.

Cristina Nascimento, 45, has cut down on bread. Since prices for the most popular version among Brazilians—a small roll known locally as French bread—started to escalate, the house cleaner has begun substituting other products.

"I'm trying to be creative. I used to buy seven rolls a day only for my teenage son," she said. "Now I'm making avocado shake [a mixture of avocado and milk]. It's less expensive and has all the energy he needs."

Her story is indicative of the mixed blessings of Brazil's growing economy, which has elevated the fortunes of many while bringing global fiscal troubles home more quickly.

"When you've got strong growth, price increases at wholesale transfer quicker and easier to final consumers," said Luiz Roberto Cunha, an inflation specialist with Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, who pointed out that the country's gross domestic product is growing by more than 5 percent a year.

(Related video: "World Food in Crisis.")

Bread prices have shot up, for instance, because of global increases in the price of grains that have sent Brazil's stockpiles of wheat to their lowest levels in four years.

According to Salomão Quadros of Fundação Getúlio Vargas, the country's most respected independent inflation institute, French bread became 10 percent more expensive in some cities in March alone.

And it's not only bread Nascimento is avoiding. Black beans, the basis of the most traditional Brazilian meals, have also become less frequent on her table, as has soya cooking oil.

"Black beans have become absurdly expensive," she said. "I haven't bought much. And soya oil I've substituted for a cheaper oil."

Good Supply, Bad Prices

Food was responsible for about half of Brazil's 4.46 percent inflation in 2007, according to the country's official index of consumer prices, and the trend has continued so far this year.

Continued on Next Page >>


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