Elevated food prices hit families in Argentina

Elevated food prices hit families in Argentina

Elevated food prices hit families in Argentina

Inflation has been a problem across the world but Argentina is second in a World Bank ranking of countries with the highest food inflation, at 107 percent over the last year.

It’s topped only by Lebanon, with a whopping 352 percent.

These days, for many in Argentina, paying bills and getting to the end of the month have taken a backseat to a more basic problem: getting enough to eat.

The price of food has increased even faster, leading many to rely on soup kitchens to get at least one hearty meal a day.

At least four in 10 Argentines, and 54 percent of children under 15, are poor, according to the state-run INDEC statistics agency.

Consumer prices in Argentina increased 21.7 percent in the first three months of the year, but food prices soared 28.2 percent during that time, according to INDEC.

Annual inflation reached 104.3 percent annually in March.

“Before the pandemic, the people who came here were the most vulnerable,” said Evelyn Morales, who is in charge of the soup kitchen operated by the leftist Socialist Workers’ Movement. “But now it’s the people who live in this neighborhood who come to get food.”

President Alberto Fernández’s administration has been struggling to put the brakes on the country’s soaring inflation rate.

In December, Economy Minister Sergio Massa said his goal was for monthly inflation to decelerate to 3 percent by April. That now seems like a pipe dream.

Argentines are no strangers to inflation in part due to the government’s penchant for printing money to finance spending, which accelerated during the pandemic. Now prices are also being pushed higher due to a punishing drought and a sharp depreciation of the local currency in financial markets last month amid stringent capital controls.

The government has tried to reduce the impact of spiking prices through price controls that have largely failed and may mask the real rate of food inflation for the poorest members of society.

Argentina’s three-digit inflation rate is bound to be a key issue in the presidential election in October. Fernández has already said that he will not be seeking reelection.