efe-epaSao Paolo

A bean that is the epitome of Brazilian cuisine and a source of protein millions rely on, has soared in price in recent months making the once staple commodity a luxury item, forcing Brazilians to seek alternatives to pad out their diet, a spokesperson for an economic think tank told EFE Monday.

The "feijão", as it is called in Brazil, is, with rice, the most heavily consumed ingredient in the Latin American country — with an estimated 15 kilos (33 pounds) of beans consumed per Brazilian each year — and is also the star of Brazil's national dish the "feijoada," a stew of pork, beef and beans served with rice.

"Crop shortages often cause inflation in January, but the impact is felt in February," André Braz a coordinator for the Consumer Price Index at the Getulio Vargas Foundation told EFE.

"However inflation in Brazil is low because the economy continues to be slow, unemployment is high and consumption low," Braz continued.

The price hike has affected most legumes from the pulse family but has particularly hit beans native to Rio de Janeiro, although other varieties such as the "fradinhoi", "feijão de corda" or the "preto" black bean have also suffered the increase as a result of depleted harvests.

The native Rio bean, which accounts for 60 percent of national production, cost by the beginning of February 400 reals ($106) for a 60-kilo bag in rural areas as opposed to the 120 reals recorded in 2018.

The feijão is a key component of Brazil's national dish which, according to tradition, was created by slaves who would cook the beans with the cheaper cuts of meats their owners would discard.

What was once a meal for the poorest is nowadays is a firm weekly staple in most Brazilian homes regardless of their background or economic circumstances.

The Montecarlo bar, which is just moments away from the bustling Paulist Avenue in one of Sao Paolo's financial hubs, serves up over 100 feijoadas on the days it is on the menu.

"For the moment we are going to maintain the price of the feijoada," the bar owner Ronilce Matos told EFE.

"It is our main dish, which is why we aren't changing the price, so our customers aren't affected," Matos continued.

Retiree Alice Boreli, thinks the price hike is ridiculous and has already substituted beans, for lentils.

"Everything in supermarkets is expensive, beans, rice, sugar, everything is going up," Boreli continued.

According to a report by the Brazilian Dry Beans Institute, feijão have gone from an affordable 3,5 reals ($0.93) a kilo to 12 reals in February.

There is some hope yet though; Braz is of the view that prices will start to drop again from April onwards.