The tomato has long been a near-obligatory garnishing for just about any Brazilian dish, yet it is becoming the country’s apple of discord.
A longer-than-usual rainy season, high fuel prices and superheated demand have combined to send prices for the beloved food soaring, and consumers are seeing red.
Facebook pages have popped up for Brazilians to vent their anger, and some restaurants have even dropped tomato-based dishes from their menus.
Opposition lawmakers pushed grocery carts laden with tomatoes and other pricey fruits and vegetables into the House of Representatives to complain about inflation, while people living near Brazil’s southern border are crossing into Argentina and Paraguay to smuggle in tomatoes in defiance of customs laws.
The price of tomatoes has more than doubled over the past year, according to Brazil’s IBGE statistics agency. A kilogram now fetches as much as US$6.50 at some Rio de Janeiro supermarkets — a hefty sum in a country where the minimum wage is just US$339 a month.
According to a report in the newspaper O Globo, the online backlash started when an Italian restaurant in Sao Paulo announced that it was holding off on buying fresh tomatoes and suggested clients opt for spaghetti with shrimp sauce instead.