BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s annual inflation rate rose to 104.3 percent in March, according to the official statistics agency. He said on Fridayone of the highest in the world, straining people’s wallets and fueling a cost-of-living crisis that has led to an increase in poverty.
The inflation reading for the month came in at 7.7%, well above analysts’ expectations of 7.1%, marking the fastest monthly rise since 2002 and piling pressure on the government as it contends with angry voters ahead of elections in October.
“I try to think that one day we’ll be better off. But the inflation we have today in Argentina is awful. It’s like it’s never happened before,” said Claudia Hernandez, an employee of a publishing company.
“In my case, I don’t have the ability to save.”
The rise in prices led to a decline in salaries and spending power, raised the poverty level to nearly 40%, and reduced the popularity of the ruling Peronist coalition as the general elections approached.
The country, a major global exporter of grains, is also grappling with one of the worst droughts in history, which has devastated crops of soybeans, corn and wheat, decimating the economy with billions in lost exports and boosting domestic prices.
“The figure we are seeing today represents the worst moment of the war’s impact on global prices and the worst drought in history in our country,” presidential spokeswoman Gabriela Ceruti wrote on Twitter.
“We know this hurts us and we are concerned about how this affects daily life and every family,” she added, adding that the government hoped the downward trend in inflation would reverse “soon”.
Each store is more expensive
Right now, every trip to the supermarket is a reminder of the country’s inflationary crisis, the worst since 1991, which marked the end of a period of hyperinflation. Retiree Juan Tartara said prices rose with each weekly visit to the store.
“Sometimes the food increases by 10% or 15%,” he said. “In one year, the price of beef has gone from about 1,000 pesos ($4.66), or 1,200 pesos, to 2,800 pesos.”
Inflation is likely to be one of the crucial issues for voters in the October election, as libertarian economist Javier Milli gains momentum in the polls with his promises to breach the status quo.
President Alberto Fernandez’s approval rating has fallen as inflation has risen, and currently hovers above 20%. He has not yet confirmed whether he will seek re-election for a second term.
Paola Lavezzari, also in publishing, said inflation had forced her to tighten up and buy cheaper products.
“The first thing you lose is the quality of the product. Because what you used to consume is of better quality, today it becomes unaffordable,” she said.
“Things were always maybe 10 pesos more, but now it’s 100 pesos more. … When you do the monthly shopping trip, it’s a lot. The difference is huge.”
($1 = 214.6700 Argentine pesos)
(Reporting by Horacio Soria and Juan Bustamante) Writing by Ana Cathryn Brigida; Editing by Sandra Mahler
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