Amid the current increase in food prices, the consumption of cheaper products, but with low nutritional value, also tends to grow. An example of this is the prospect of increased sales that the sale of instant noodles in Brazil should boost in the pasta industry for this year: between 5% and 10%, according to the Brazilian Association of Biscuits, Pasta and Bread and Cakes Industries Industrialized (Abimapi). In this scenario, organizations and institutes, such as Armazém do Campo and Instituto Baru, stand out for the sale of quality products at a fair price.
At Instituto Baru, a situation in the city of São Paulo, for example, the price of fruits and vegetables has not increased for at least two years, since the organization opened its doors. In the warehouse sector, which involves the sale of products such as grains, dairy products and bakeries, there was an increase, but not as significant, as informed by Pedro Zolli, one of the members of Baru.
According to Zolli, the Institute manages to promote an affordable price for healthy foods by removing “the fat that all other establishments put on top” of the food offered by the producers. “The fat that I refer to refers to the number of middlemen, for each person that a food passes by, which puts a margin and an unbridled profit”, he says. 15.05.2021 – PEDRO ZOLLI – CAROLINE OLIVEIRA – 1 – “The objective is simply profit. The longer this vision prevails, the more this fat will exist and the less importance to human beings, the land or what matters will be placed on the table.”
This is also the explanation of Ramos Figueiredo, one of the members of Armazém do Campo do Recife (PE), linked to the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST): the absence of middlemen. “It’s not a shop for middlemen, it’s not a store that buys products and puts a large profit margin on top of it, with a view to generating capital,” he says.
An example is the commercialization of coconut water. A liter of the product, which uses three to five coconuts on average, can be found in supermarkets for an average of R$ 7 to R$ 10. However, “the coconut leaves the field at less than 20 cents and arrives on the table of the person for almost 10 reais”, explains Figueiredo. “Unlike normal trade based on capital in which prices are rising, the Warehouse, at least here in Recife, has been guaranteed the same sales and price margin for the last three months without any change.”
The rise in food prices in data
In one year, the “made dish” rose practically triple the inflation rate, according to a survey carried out by Matheus Peçanha, researcher and economist at the Brazilian Institute of Economics of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV IBRE): 22.57% in 12 months compared to 8.75% of the Consumer Price Index (IPC) in the same period. In July last year, the 12-month accumulated index on the plate hit 12.21% and in relation to inflation, 8.35%, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).
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In this account, Peçanha considered 10 items. Among those that had a rise in price are rice (37.5%), tomatoes (37.24%), beef (32.69%), whole chicken (22.73%), black beans (18.46 %), eggs (13.5%) and lettuce (9.74%). Of the total, only the price of three items decreased: onions (-39.82%), English potatoes (-19.33%) and carioca beans (-5.44%).
In the city of São Paulo, where the Instituto Baru is located, one of the cities with the highest cost of living in the country, the value of the basic food basket – consisting of 39 products that guide Brazilians’ spending on food, hygiene and household cleaning items – reached R$ 1,064.79 in July this year, a difference of only R$ 35 in relation to the minimum wage, currently R$ 1,100. The difference is insufficient even to buy a kilo of red meat depending on the region of the capital of São Paulo. The value of the basic food basket also represented an increase of 22.18% in 12 months.
In the Brazilian average, the proportion between the value of the basic food basket and the minimum wage was 58% in July this year. This means that the basket cost more than half the minimum wage. In December of last year, the proportion was 60%, the highest percentage since July 2008. The data for São Paulo and Brazil are from the Center for Intelligence and Research of Procon-SP in partnership with the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Studies Socioeconomic (Dieese).
food as a commodity
In addition to inflation, the increase in food prices can be explained by the production and consumption model established in Brazil. According to Adriana Charoux, coordinator of Greenpeace Brasil’s “Agroecology against Hunger” campaign, the rise in prices is directly related to agribusiness. “Which “privilegs much more exports, the concentration of wealth and profit in the hands of a few at the expense of a brutal increase in food prices and an exponential increase in the hunger of the Brazilian population.” 20.08.2021 – ADRIANA CHAROUX – CAROLINE OLIVEIRA – 1
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A study released by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, in June this year, showed that Brazil is already the fourth largest grain producer in the world, behind only China, the United States and the India, and the second largest exporter of products, accounting for 19% of the international market.
This means that, with Brazilian agribusiness looking extensively at the global market, food pricing is essentially in dollars, even though it is traded in the country. One more consequence: with the export of a large amount of food, explained by the boom of the commodities which should last for at least another two years, there is a lack of supply in the domestic market, which also forces the price up.
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“If we think that soybeans are established by the Chicago Stock Exchange and other exchanges, this brutal speculation process reinforces this idea that food is a commodity. (…) This scenario only tends to get worse, because with the boom of the production of commodities in the global market, which more than ever are highly valued, Brazil continues to bet on agribusiness as the great way to hold the ends,” says Charoux.
Agroecology as a path to development
For Charoux, wearing the agroecology shirt, it’s time for Brazilians to leave the supermarket. “When you buy everything at the supermarket, you end up strengthening this perverse logic of brutally increasing food prices that increase hunger and food insecurity. Marketing channel is everything. It all depends on where you buy this food. If you buy directly from the producer, you really are can access healthy food, much more nutritious and much more suitable from an environmental point of view”.
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Behind organizations such as Armazém do Campo and Instituto Baru are producers who plant based on agroecology, which, unlike large-scale production of a single crop, such as soy, from agribusiness, aims to produce sufficient quantities to supply the domestic market, respecting the seasonality of food, as well as the production limit of the land.
20.08.2021 – RAMOS FIGUEIREDO – CAROLINE OLIVEIRA – 1 – “We are guided by the values of agroecology. So what is on the shelf is not necessarily what the consumer wants to consume at that moment, but it is often what nature gives as a possibility. This makes the price different. If you are harvesting at the right time, there is more harvesting, you have the possibility of entering the trade at an affordable price, even without having technical assistance, subsidy, or any government support”, says Figueiredo.
One of the factors that illustrate what Figueiredo calls “no government support” is the dismantling of the budget for programs to encourage family farming and food and nutrition security. Data from the Transparency Portal, maintained by the Comptroller General of the Union (CGU), last year, for example, R$ 168.2 million were allocated to the Food Acquisition Program (PAA), of which only R$ 27.16 million were effectively executed: a 35% cut in the budget and 71% to what was executed in relation to 2019, respectively, amidst the pandemic.
The program established that the Union would buy food from family farmers and distribute it, for example, in public schools. On August 9, this year, the Bolsonaro government published Provisional Measure 1.061, which extinguishes the PAA and creates the Programa Alimenta Brasil. In a statement, the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (Contag) criticized the extinction of the Food Acquisition Program (PAA) and stated that the government presented an MP that does not have a clear source of funds or the budget and financial estimate, an argument used by him, including, to veto almost all the projects approved by the National Congress; and the second point is that there is no clear parameter on central issues such as the baseline for defining a situation of poverty and extreme poverty, in addition to the values for other programs, such as Aid for Productive Inclusion.
Edition: Anelize Moreira