Known for his gaucho ranchers and a love of steaks, Argentina’s appetite for beef is struggling to weather a price spike that has seen many cuts as much as 50 percent higher this year.
On site mollehas, a sweet veal bread that is a classic in his country’s cuisine, Buenos Aires restaurateur Julián Diaz has begun adding other dishes to the menu. “We switched to lamb dishes and more fish dishes,” said the Los Galgos owner.
Throughout Latin America, many culinary favorites such as the Argentinean asado Barbecues are getting more expensive as the war in Ukraine and bottlenecks in the global supply chain have an indirect impact on goods from fuel to fertilizer.
Pensioner Maria Flier said that almost all of her savings now go to food. “We used to eat beef all the time, but now at best twice a week,” she said at a weekly street market in the Argentine capital.
While higher inflation is a worldwide phenomenon, it has become harder for many of the continent’s most disadvantaged to afford even basic food, prompting warnings of food shortages.
Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has reached its peak since the beginning of this century after a 30 percent increase in the number of people experiencing it between 2019 and 2020, according to a November United Nations report.
Julio Berdegue, LAC’s spokesman at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said the region is “rolling back” on food security issues.
According to Berdeguet, about 5 percent of its population was undernourished in 2014, a figure that rose to 7.1 percent in 2017. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this share has risen to 9.1 percent in 2020, or nearly 60 million people. He added that fourteen countries in the region had annual food inflation rates above 10 percent.
“It’s been decades since we’ve seen this, and the combination of both tendencies is terrible in terms of the human suffering it causes,” Berdeguet said.
While all Latin American economies are self-sufficient in food, according to consulting firm Oxford Economics, even net exporters face inflationary pressures on internationally priced products such as grains.
The question is likely to be on the minds of many voters in the Brazilian and Colombian presidential elections, where the former Marxist guerrilla will face a populist businessman in a runoff tie-break this month.
On a recent morning ahead of the first round of voting in Palokemao, Bogotá’s largest fruit and vegetable market, both buyers and sellers complained about a number of staples. Potatoes stand out in particular, having risen in price by three-quarters in 2022. Rising fertilizer prices are partly to blame, as well as protests in Colombia last year that disrupted the planting season.
Angelica Neira, 30, who owns a vegetable stall with her husband, said the price of a variety called criolla has doubled to 6,000 pesos ($1.60) per kilo. Small yellow Andean potatoes are used in a traditional Bogotá dish called Ajiaco – hearty soup with chicken, potatoes and sweet corn, served with capers and avocado.
“Tomatoes have also doubled in price,” she added. “Most commodities are up 100% since the start of the year, and if they haven’t doubled, they’ve gone up maybe 40% or 50%.”
Another trader, Gerson Ubak, 25, called on the next government to intervene. “Colombia is a very geographically rich country because we are on the equator and we have so many different altitudes. You can grow anything here,” he said.
“But rural Colombia needs help — like Ecuador, where agriculture is subsidized. There are no subsidies here.”
This opinion will be tested in the second round between the millionaire Rodolfo Hernandez and the former left-wing guerrilla Gustavo Petro, who proposed an agricultural revolution that would turn Colombia into a “pantry for the whole world.”
“Most of our population earns less than 3,000 pesos a day, and a liter of milk costs 3,000 and a kilogram of meat costs 38,000, so how can people eat?” Petro asked after winning the first round of voting.
While some governments have stepped in to ease the burden on those who are struggling the most, mainstream economists argue that such policies could backfire. They warn that excessive increases in government spending could hurt public finances, which in turn could affect the exchange rate and increase inflationary forces.
Despite high export taxes and strict currency and price controls in Argentina, inflation is approaching 65 percent, the highest rate in 30 years. Since October last year, the government has frozen the prices of more than 1,000 household goods to keep prices down.
Constraining household budgets should be a major topic when Brazil, the leading agricultural power, elects a new president in October.
Giovanni Carneiro de Oliveira, owner of two restaurants in central Sao Paulo, said he had never seen food prices so high since he took over in 1999. feijoada – stewed beans with beef and pork – did not survive.
“Feijoada has become more expensive mainly because of its main ingredient, beans,” he explained. The kale, served as a side dish, has also risen in price from R$30 to R$100 per box.
Seasonal factors such as warmer temperatures until April and heavy rains that hurt supplies are partly to blame for higher vegetable prices in Brazil, said André Braz, economist at Fundação Getulio Vargas.
While a more favorable winter climate should help make a difference, he added: “There is another, more permanent effect, which is an increase in production costs: manure, fertilizers, pesticides, and also diesel fuel.”
Former left-wing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is trying to use this discontent to defeat incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, sparking nostalgia for life during his two terms from 2003 to 2010, when living standards rose as Brazil experienced a global commodity boom and financed the fight against poverty. . programs.
Elsewhere in the region, politicians are trying other measures. The Mexican administration last month announced a plan to increase production of staple foods such as corn, rice and beans.
While the cost of a kilo of tortillas, from which many Mexicans get most of their daily calories, has risen by almost a fifth over the past year, lower prices for beans and rice should help ease the burden on the poorest. head of the national anti-poverty agency Jose Nabor Cruz.
Carlos Veg, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University, noted that growth forecasts for the wider region have been lowered since the invasion of Ukraine, and Latin American central banks are aggressively raising interest rates in an attempt to contain price increases. .
“Fiscal resources are quite depleted due to the social needs caused by the pandemic, which does not bode well for helping the poorest in the fight against food price inflation,” he said.
Lucinda Elliott in Buenos Aires, Gideon Long in Bogota, Carolina Ingizza and Michael Pooler in Sao Paulo and Christine Murray in Mexico City