Number of the week

Number of the week: Food prices are soaring faster than inflation

Over the past 12 months, inflation has reached 5.2 percent. Food products were the prime culprits

food prices brazil
Rice — a staple ingredient in Brazilians’ diet — becoming 69.8 percent more expensive. Photo: RHJPhtotoandilustration/Shutterstock

Welcome to “Number of the Week,” where we choose a single figure that helps understand what is going on in Brazil. This week’s number reveals how food prices have skyrocketed in Brazil:

69.8 percent

During the financial crisis of 2015, business associations used a yellow rubber duck as a symbol for their disgruntlement with then-President Dilma Rousseff. It was a reference to the Brazilian expression of “paying for the duck,” which is when one is left to pay for something that is not their responsibility. The message was that the people were tired of paying for the government’s mistakes. 

Now, another creative idea has appeared, with a campaign bashing President Jair Bolsonaro for his disastrous handling of the pandemic and Brazilians’ loss of purchasing power. They call the president “Bolsocaro,” a portmanteau of Bolsonaro and caro, the Portuguese word for “expensive.” Over the past 12 months, inflation has reached 5.2 percent — prodding the 5.25-percent upper limit of the government’s target. Food products were the prime culprits, with rice — a staple ingredient in Brazilians’ diet — becoming 69.8 percent more expensive.

Biggest in five years. Inflation rates reached 0.86 percent in February — the highest for the month since 2016 —  after a 0.25-percent jump in January.

Fuel prices. Going up 7.11 percent, gasoline saw the highest spike. “Fuel prices for distributors have gone up six times in 2021, and part of that has been passed on to consumers,” says Pedro Kislanov, a survey manager at the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.

Expectations. According to the Focus Report, a weekly Central Bank survey with top-rated investment firms, markets expect inflation to hit 4.1 percent by the end of the year. One month ago, their prediction was 3.66 percent.

Inflation not equally spread. Over the 12 months that ended in February, inflation hit the poor much harder. Very low-income families saw their basket of basic necessities get 6.2 percent more expensive — while inflation over the same period was just 2.86 percent for very high-income families. Data for March has yet to be released.