Everything on the Christmas table is more expensive. What now?

Everything on the Christmas table is more expensive. What now?

Chop pies. Latkes. Eggnog. Tamales. While large families around the world are planning holiday parties again, they are facing a harsh reality: Traditional foods, especially those sold for a limited period of time in even a normal year, are significantly more expensive in 2021 – if they are available at all.

“Maybe you can shop down on some things; instead of the expensive turkeys or steaks, you can consider something cheaper on that side of the dinner table, ”said Curt Covington, senior director of institutional credit at AgAmerica Lending, which lends money to farmers. But there is no escape: Everything on the holiday table “just gets more expensive.”

Here are snapshots in five counties – Brazil, China, the UK, Romania and the US – highlighting some of the ways in which runaway food prices will dampen the festivities at the end of the year. Households may long for a return to normalcy, but with supply chains breaking under the weight of widespread labor shortages and the continuing strain of Covid-19, feeding families this holiday season will be anything but.

Brazil: Amazon fish replaces expensive imports

Fatima Santos describes her family’s planned Christmas Eve in 2021 in one word: skinny. Neither cod nor turkey – traditional focal points in many Brazilian homes for the holidays – will fare this year, the 41-year-old unemployed hairdresser said as he rummaged through the shelves for deals at a supermarket in Rio de Janeiro. “Eggs are the new steak in our home. Even rice and beans are super expensive,” she said.

Although the country is one of the world’s largest producers of agricultural raw materials, the growing demand abroad and a weak local currency make exports more profitable, leaving less Brazilian food grown for Brazilians at home. At the same time, this year’s extreme weather – the worst drought in a century followed by an unprecedented frost – severely damaged the nation’s crops, increasing inflation. The think tank Getulio Vargas Foundation estimates that beef prices have risen by about 15% in the past year, while chicken costs have risen more than 24%.

Grocery chain Zona Sul has tried to fill its shelves with more local products so families can avoid the worst inflation. Traditional Norwegian cod is still available in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but the store also pushes Amazon fish pirarucu at half price. With imports of sparkling wine delayed due to lack of containers, the chain is discounting regional alternatives. “As purchasing power declines, people are looking for secondary brands,” said the chain’s CEO, Pietrangelo Leta.

Priscila Santana, a professional chef, usually sells rabanadas – a dessert similar to French toast – around the holidays. But she has had to raise prices this year by more than 10% due to rising costs for bread, milk and eggs plus the petrol required to get to the store at all. Despite starting sales several weeks earlier this year and accepting both credit cards and company-issued meal tickets, she is still experiencing lower demand. “I expect to sell 20% less this year. Some of my customers had to give up rabanadas to buy their lunch instead.”

China: Inventory build-up causes costs to skyrocket

There is plenty of food to go around in the world’s most populous country, the Ministry of Trade insists. But that has not stopped Chinese households from replenishing – and in some cases hoarding – after a confusing announcement by the government in early November urging people to rebuild stocks ahead of the winter, raising fears of travel restrictions, virus outbreaks, extreme weather or worse.

“Usually one family only needs to store one bag of flour, but now they buy two or even three bags. Of course, prices will go up, ”said one store owner, who has been selling noodles, dumpling wrappers and Chinese pancakes for nearly 30 years. Speaking behind his booth at a market in Beijing, he asked to be identified only by his last name, Zhou. “The more families hoard flour, the higher prices will go.”

The 25-kilogram (about 55-pound) bags of flour he buys from his supplier are about 30% more expensive than a month ago and now cost more than 90 yuan ($ 14). But Zhou has raised its own selling price by less than 20%, even as the winter solstice – Dongzhi – approaches, increasing demand for traditional delicacies such as dumplings and noodles. “My costs have increased, but I can not really increase prices, otherwise I will lose customers,” he said.

UK: Turkey farms pay for work

“There is not a product we use on this farm that has not been raised,” said Becky Howe, a third-generation farmer, as she watched workers lead a herd of turkeys to an open barn on the last day of slaughter at John Howe’s turkey farm outside Kent. It includes the cost of steel used to build the barns, chopped straw for bedding, corn feed, gas, packaging cartons and even wax for the automatic picking line. The farm had not anticipated such inflationary pressures as it increased the size of this year’s flock by 25% and for the first time ever it also started breeding geese.

The biggest headache has been finding enough workers in November and December, the farm’s busiest time of the year. Most of its employees are foreigners who come to the country on a temporary visa permit; the farm has increased wages this year to retain staff. It has raised the price of its turkeys by 8%, but its own costs have risen more. “The price increase has not covered everything and we have had to absorb as much as we possibly could,” Howe said. “We do not want to pass on too much and scare people away from buying our turkeys.”

Concerned about rising prices – plus a shortage of UK truck drivers, which will only exacerbate the pressure – merchants say some families in London started buying their Christmas turkeys as early as October this year. Demand for smaller birds is particularly high as viruses fear temperament optimism that extended families will reunite this year after a 2020 in lockdown.

Romania: Priced out of the pig slaughter

In the Romanian landscape, the Orthodox celebration of St. Ignatius on December 20 has followed a traditional scripture for centuries: Buy a pig from a trusted farmer, cut it over the neck, burn the skin and cleanse the corpse with the help of friends and family at. dawn. Every part of the animal – from the bones to the fat to the intestines – is then transformed into dozens of dishes to feed a household’s extended family for Christmas, New Year and every meal in between.

At least that used to be the custom. This year, more families will just grab some supermarket sausages on the way home from work and call it a day, said Adi Rusu, a 40-year-old farmer from the village of Posta Calnau. Rusu’s family has been raising pigs for 40 years, but with feed and electricity costs through the roof, the risk of a fatal outbreak of swine fever and customers increasingly choosing easier options, his family talks about whether it’s worth it at all. It is difficult for neighbors to justify paying as much as 1,500 Romanian lei (about $ 340) for a local pig, an increase of 50% over the last four to five years. At the same time, Covid travel restrictions, which keep many working Romanians abroad, mean reduced dinners – and little incentive to cook enough pork to eat for at least seven days in a row.

“It’s becoming clear that we can not eat three times more than in a normal week at Christmas,” said Marioara Mihalcea, director of the meat company M&R in Iasi. “You know you can always find fresh meat on the shelves.”

Rusu had only six pigs on offer this year, about a fifth of what he would normally sell after many of the piglets died at birth, but he decided to supplement with more piglets from commercial farms to make a profit of only 400 lei (about $ 90) a piece just did not make economic sense this year. Potential customers “do not buy from someone else; they have to go to the supermarket,” said Rusu, who picked up livestock from his father. “Those who know how to prepare it die slowly and the young people are not interested in learning.”

USA: The cookie season gets a hit

Americans who eat more butter than ever before will find that it costs them more than their waistline this holiday season. Once butter has been denounced for saturated fat, butter has again become popular as shoppers embrace high-fat diets, increasing consumption per serving. per capita to £ 6.3 in 2020, the highest in data dating back to Ford’s presidency. Butter consumption typically peaks in the fourth quarter, thanks to all the Christmas cookies, mashed potatoes and other full-flavor traditions that adorn the table. It is also soaring in price.

Spot wholesale prices for Class AA butter have risen by about 40% from this time last year to more than $ 2 per barrel. pound. There is plenty of milk to make, but packing and shipping have been a challenge amid widespread shortages of labor and materials. Grassland Dairy Products in Greenwood, Wisconsin, recently raised its supermarket prices for the first time in four years. President Trevor Wuethrich mentioned rising cardboard spending, truck driving problems and his own decision to raise hourly wages in September to retain trained employees.

Some households may switch to vegetable oil spreads, such as margarine, to reduce costs, although they will also increase in price. Dina Cimarusti, owner of the newly opened Sugar Moon Bakery in Chicago, paid just 40 cents per pound more than usual for butter in early December. For her, it’s not an option to subbe it out: it’s an important ingredient for many of her homemade cakes, including scones, cookies and pastries.

“It’s not just butter,” she said. “Even my product prices have risen markedly since I opened,” said 36-year-old Cimarusti, whose storefront debuted in September. “Unless I raise my prices, of course I’ll lose money.” So far, she keeps clapping. “I just wanted to wait it out,” she said, wearing a green apron and jeans, and weighing pound-blocks of butter before dumping them in a large steel mixer for molasses cakes. “I’m just trying to keep it affordable.”

Also read | 4 recipes for Christmas candy from kitchens in India

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