Understand | Why are food more expensive in RJ?

A report by the Brazilian Network of Research on Food and Nutritional Security shows that 19 million are hungry in the country (9% of the population) and warns: “the situation of serious food insecurity and hunger has returned to the levels of 2004”.

Read more: Food or rent: pandemic forces more families to live in occupations to survive in RJ

A scene recorded by Extra Newspaper, in the last week in Rio de Janeiro, he showed that hunger is back in the lives of many Brazilians. In the midst of the pandemic and without anything to eat, people in a situation of extreme vulnerability look for bone and meat scraps that would otherwise be discarded for food.

economy and unemployment

What explains such a setback and why the population of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest metropolitan region in the country, is unable to buy food?

Part of that answer is that food weighs more heavily on the budgets of the poorest families. Fluminense workers commit 63% of the minimum wage (R$ 1,100) in items of the basic food basket (R$ 643.06), according to the September edition of the National Survey of the Food Basket of Dieese (Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socio-Economic Studies ).

“We are seeing prices rise without being accompanied by the population’s purchasing power,” says economist Ligia Toneto. She recalls that since 2019 the Consumer Price Index (IPCA), which measures inflation, has accumulated 17%, while the minimum wage had a readjustment of only 10% in the same period.

In addition to suffering from the high dollar and spiraling inflation, a consequence of the economic policies of the Jair Bolsonaro government (no party), the rise in food prices adds to the record unemployment in the state (1.6 million, according to the IBGE) . Associated with working conditions, the occurrence of severe hunger is four times higher among informal workers, and six times higher among unemployed people.

Read too: Why is unemployment in Rio de Janeiro higher than the national average? Economists explain

The end of emergency aid in October (R$150 or R$350) and high unemployment, reinforces Toneto, further aggravates the situation of food insecurity and the bill does not close. “When people manage, with a lot of effort, to buy food, they cannot cook because the price of gas is going up a lot.”

According to IBGE, cooking gas has become almost 35% more expensive in the last 12 months. Gasoline was up 40% and meat, 37%.

Disregard for food production

In Rio de Janeiro, a set of historical factors and political choices deepen the food crisis. This is what explains geographer Paulo Bastos, a professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). The concentration of land and the lack of public investment in family farming are examples of this.

“The monoculture of sugarcane and coffee depleted Rio de Janeiro’s soil. On the other hand, the mountain and coastal region is under great pressure from the tourism and leisure sector, which promotes real estate speculation. These are adverse conditions for small producers”, he analyzes.

Bastos also states that the very configuration of the economic matrix in the state, aimed at the service sector (68%) and industry (31%), denounces the neglect of agriculture and food production.

“Together with the successive crises, mainly of oil, greater wealth in the state, from the 2000s onwards, and the unemployment rate doubling between 2012 and 2020. We arrived in a chaotic picture of malnutrition and food insecurity, absolute poverty and hunger ”, says Bastos.

Dismantling of public policies

“Much of Rio de Janeiro’s food comes from abroad. It is the Brazilian state that contributes the least to agriculture. Public policies have never privileged small farmers”, completes Professor Bastos, a member of the Institute of Rights and Equality (IDI) and Doctor in Architecture and Urbanism (UFF).

Economist Ligia Toneto agrees and points out that one of the main causes of the lack of food on the population’s table is “the destruction of food purchase and credit programs for family farming, something that has come from the Temer government and worsened with Bolsonaro.”

“Over 60% of credit destined to agriculture in Brazil last year went to agribusiness. Producers who still manage to produce often cannot sell because they have higher costs. In other words, they also end up selling abroad because the government does not commit to buying public food quotas that existed during the Lula and Dilma government,” adds Toneto.

family farming

Offering quality food at a fair price is a permanent struggle of the Small Farmers Movement (MPA). Given the lack of public policies in this regard, Leo Márcio Araújo, from the national direction of the MPA, explains that the efforts of farmers have been to strengthen solidarity actions and agroecological production, without poison.

“Hunger is at an alarming rate in the country. We are in dialogue with all peasant communities, social movements and organizations in popular neighborhoods in large cities that are in great difficulty. For the right of farmers to produce and for communities to have access to food”, defends Leo.

The debate around Food Sovereignty gains momentum in the week of International Food Day, October 16, and denounces Brazil’s return to the hunger map. In addition, it highlights the responsibility of agribusiness and the Bolsonaro government in the food insecurity crisis.

The MPA and Via Campesina, an international organization of rural peoples, carry out a series of virtual and in-person activities during the week with the motto “against agribusiness so that Brazil does not go hungry”. Saturday (16) will be marked by actions of denunciation and solidarity across the country.

Source: BoF Rio de Janeiro

Edition: Eduardo Miranda

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