Food Vendors Tackle Rising Costs
Countries are grappling with skyrocketing inflation tied to the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and war. This has driven up the cost of food, from quesadillas to steamed dumplings. Global Press Journal reporters asked food vendors around the world how they’re responding to increasingly expensive ingredients.
Gongorjav Gantogtokh offers buuz, Mongolian steamed dumplings filled with meat, at her restaurant in Dalanzadgad, the capital of Umnugovi province in southern Mongolia. Rising inflation and closed borders forced Gongorjav to increase prices, replace some ingredients and reduce staff. She tries to provide her staff with a full salary, even as her customers and profits dwindle.
César Alejandro González López sells elotes (corn on the cob) and esquites (corn in a cup) every afternoon on a street corner in Acayuca, in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo. López, who uses a loudspeaker to attract customers, says that earlier this year, his elotes cost 8 Mexican pesos (40 cents). They now cost 20 pesos ($1), and he provides fewer limes with each order.
Faustin Muhindo Zunguruka cooks meat skewers on a fire-pit grill in Kirumba, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The spiking costs of food and cooking oil have forced him to adjust prices. He charges at least 200 Congolese francs (10 cents) for a piece of grilled meat that used to cost 100 francs (5 cents).
Emmanuela Noël ladles Haitian gumbo made with chicken, okra, onions, aromatic spices and oil into a bowl in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Noël, who has sold food for a decade, increased the price of her dishes from 125 Haitian gourdes ($1) to 375 gourdes ($3) due to inflation. “I had no choice but to put my prices up to cover all of my expenses,” she says.
Elsa González prepares popcorn with a machine she has used for 30 years at Parque Centenario in Buenos Aires, Argentina. González says inflation has always been a challenge, but it has hit her particularly hard since the beginning of the year. “I try to haggle with the wholesalers to keep my prices as low as I can,” she says. “If I raise them a lot, people won’t be able to pay.”
Enkhzaya Ochirbat hands a hot dog to Erdenechimeg Bat-Ochir at her food cart in Erdenebulgan, in Arkhangai province, near the center of Mongolia. Enkhzaya, who started the first street food business in the province in July, is trying not to pass the price increases for food on to customers.
Aurora López Pérez places a tamale on a plate in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. López Pérez, who has sold street food for three decades, says this year has proved tough. To save money, she and her family make all the tamale components from scratch and use charcoal instead of gas to cook them.
José Ángel Mendoza puts barbecue sauce on a chicken quesadilla at his mobile restaurant in Aguada, near Puerto Rico’s west coast. Mendoza had to increase the price of all meals from 50 cents to $2 due to the rising costs of chicken and oil, and to cover the expense of operating the electric generator. “We are known for low prices,” he says. “But we had to make adjustments so we wouldn’t lose products or customers.”
Luis Fernando Villa Urióstegui chops meat at his taco stall in Chilpancingo de los Bravo, the capital of Guerrero, a state on Mexico’s west coast. As tortillas and meat have gotten more expensive, Villa had to raise the price of three beef or pork tacos from 25 Mexican pesos ($1.24) to 30 pesos ($1.48). He says he uses the fat from the meat to save on cooking oil and lard.
Magdalene Naziwa Ziwa weeds her home garden in Wakiso, near Uganda's capital, Kampala. Ziwa, who has sold herbs and flowers since 2018, says she recently started growing two varieties of spinach so she can sell her produce at affordable prices. She sells 10 spinach stems for 500 Ugandan shillings (13 cents).
Haret Velázquez prepares shrimp and meat skewers with a handmade sauce at a food stand during a regional fair in Delicias, in the northwestern Mexican state of Chihuahua. Velázquez says that he tries to keep his prices affordable for customers, despite higher food costs. He sells the skewers for 80 Mexican pesos ($4) — even at that price, he can't always make a sale.