Tue, 03 Oct 2023

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The summer of 2022 has been very different from previous years for the Portuguese who are experiencing a sharp rise in inflation, as well as a shortage of some food items.

LISBON, July 4 (Xinhua) -- "I felt a lot of difference in the prices of the articles, even if it was a few cents in each product, in the end, it makes a lot of difference," said Jorge Carlindo Cabral, an electrical maintenance technician at a factory in the District of Viseu in the Central Inland of Portugal.

"Fuels have affected a lot because I drive more than 50 kilometers a day to go to work and my wife drives around 60 kilometers a day, which at the end of the month makes a big difference," he told Xinhua.

The summer of 2022 has been very different from previous years for the Portuguese who are experiencing a sharp rise in inflation, as well as a shortage of some food items.

Following the post-pandemic economic crisis, it is now the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the economic sanctions imposed on Russia that affect directly energy, commodity, and food supply chains in Europe.

The Portuguese National Statistics Institute (INE) recorded in June an inflation of 8.7 percent, the highest mark since December 1992, according to the Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), an indicator of inflation and price stability for the European Central Bank.

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The inflation rate was even higher than the European average, which stood at 8.6 percent in June.

Economist Victor Arruda has told Xinhua recently that "before the war started, inflation was already a problem in Europe, but in Portugal, due to the slower recovery of the economy, prices did not increase as much."

"This year, as the Portuguese economy is more heated and recovers faster than that of other European Union (EU) countries, inflation has hit Portugal hard," said the expert.

The prices of essential food in main Portuguese supermarkets increased an average 15 percent in the first half of 2022. Meanwhile, there is a lack of some items on supermarket shelves.

Jorge Goncalves, an elevator maintenance professional, said his family has seen "a lot of price increases" in recent months.

Commuting expenses, impacted by rising fuel prices, have risen a lot. Goncalves, who wife works as a cashier for a supermarket chain in Portugal, said that "no one feels safe" in Portugal, and that "salaries are low in comparison to the cost of living."

"Low salaries do not give us financial security, and we see the situation deteriorating. Even if the conflict in Ukraine ends, nothing will return to normal," he said.

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Roberta do Vale, owner of a small restaurant in Abraveses in the interior of Portugal, said that she had noticed a shortage of food and beverage items at suppliers.

"I realized that many products are in short supply, especially imported ones. The available items have become more expensive, and we have to pass this inflation on to meal prices. All this causes a decrease in consumption," she complained.

The Bank of Portugal predicted in its June report that inflation will settle at 5.9 percent by the end of this year, warning, however, that the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict will continue to affect mainly energy and food products.

On the other hand, the real wages of workers in the Portuguese private sector will "drop by around 1 percent this year, reflecting this abrupt rise in inflation," the bank report said.

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Maria do Ceu Antunes, the minister for Agriculture and Food, said on Saturday that "no data is pointing to a lack of food," while promising to support food production sectors.

"With the entire food chain, from production to retail, we have created monitoring groups so that there is no break and that the products continue to reach our citizens' tables," she said in Porto, a city in northern Portugal.

Meanwhile the minister said "We are feeling this increase in prices, caused by inflation, higher energy costs, and the rise in production factors, but we have created a set of measures for the agriculture and fishing sector to minimize these increases."

Despite the uncertainties caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, she said the Portuguese government has a "short-term plan, which is already being implemented, as well as a "long term plan to create more resilient and sustainable systems to guarantee food production."

"I understand that the situation is deteriorating. But at the moment I still feel relatively secure in my job, so I can handle that inflation," said Jorge Carlindo Cabral, " But I don't believe the conflict will end anytime soon, and I think things will get worse."

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