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Mike Knowles



Tomato now symbol of inflation in Brazil

Prices reported to have risen 122 per cent in past 12 months, prompting one Italian restaurant to boycott the product

Tomato now symbol of inflation in Brazil
The front cover of this week's Epoca

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The humble tomato is fast becoming a symbol of consumer discontent in Brazil over the level of price inflation in the market, with jokes about lottery winners wanting to become tomato producers illustrating a recent dramatic shift in public perception of the fruit.

Rising prices for fresh produce in the country are causing so much concern among consumers and buyers that one of the country's leading Italian restaurants decided to stop purchasing tomatoes for ten days.

Nello's Cantina and Pizzeria, in Sao Paolo, announced earlier this month that it had boycotted tomatoes for ten days, in protest at inflation it said had been caused not only by a poor harvest but what it described as speculation on the part of suppliers.

Although back on the menu now, prices as high as US$5 per kilo, 122 per cent higher than the previous year, have apparently left a bad taste in the mouth for proprietor Augusto Nello.

"These are crazy prices," he told CNN. "We apologised and suggested other dishes to our customers. Italian cuisine is bigger than tomato cuisine."

Conscientious objections

Two of Brazil's leading news weeklies, Epoca and Veja, have both featured the tomato inflation story on their front covers this week, underlining its importance to people in the country.

Recent figures published in the Brazilian consumer price index showed inflation running at 6.59 per cent over the past 12 months, above the level targeted by the country's central bank.

On Wednesday, the bank raised interest rates to 7.5 per cent in an attempt to curb inflation. Ten years ago, the interest rate was 23.5 per cent.

Since the boycott, Nello's has heralded the beginning of a "social movement for conscientious consumption", thanking its clients for their loyalty during the boycott.

"We bought tomatoes today at US$2.25/kg," a spokesperson for Nello's announced on its Facebook page. "The harvest is quickly being repaired. But what about cassava, potatoes and everything else? And yet 30 per cent of food goes unused in the form of losses and waste during harvesting, transportation and storage."

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