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Surging tomato prices stoke Brazilian inflation rage
The tomato, a staple of Brazilian cuisine, has seen its price more than double in the past year, in a worrying sign for an economy with a recent history of hyperinflation.

While the price surge has been partly driven by seasonal factors, such as crop destruction from wetter-than-normal weather, the tomato is seen as a tracker for overall inflation and reflects wider economic trends such as rising fuel prices.

A sensitive issue in Brazil, where inflation once hit 2,500pc during a 14-year period of runaway price rises, finally ending in 1994, increasingly expensive tomatoes have sparked a wave of protests across the country.

Opposition politicians confronted the ruling party with grocery trolleys laden with tomatoes and other produce on Wednesday demanding government action to curb inflation.

An online backlash has seen satirical cartoons posted on a dedicated Facebook page entitled "Tomatoes are very expensive".

Desperate to cut back on costs, restaurateurs are dropping tomato-based dishes from their menus, while others are turning to tubes of imported Italian puree.

Brazilians living near the southern border are smuggling tomatoes from neighbouring Argentina and Paraguay, a trend which has led to televised warnings from customs officials.

A kilogram of the red fruit now commands as much as $6.50 (£4.24) at some Rio de Janeiro supermarkets - a hefty sum in a country where the minimum wage is just $339 a month.

While the price of a whole range of basic vegetables from carrots to cabbage to potatoes has risen steeply over the past year, only manioc flour, which saw a 140pc price spike over the past 12 months, has risen more steeply than the tomato.

Although Brazilian inflation remains well below that of other emerging nations, it broke through a government ceiling of 6.5pc in March to hit 6.6pc, according to statistical agency IBGE. The inflation target in Brazil is 4.5pc plus or minus 2 percentage points.

"I've pretty much cut tomatoes out of my diet because at prices like these, who can afford then?" chauffeur Otacilio Cavalcante told the AP news agency. "I used to eat them all the time, but now they're a just for special occasions. It's crazy."

Market seller Adelina Dias told AP she had slashed her tomato stocks.

"No one's buying, which is why I only stock half as much as I used to. What's the use if I'm just going to have to cart it away at the end of the day anyway," she said. "No one's buying tomatoes but they're all complaining about the prices. They're all crying like a bunch of babies."

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