The day-to-day eating habits of low income earners
Santo Domingo, DR
“I go with RD$200, I buy a portion of chicken and the condiments to season it. I don’t have enough to buy rice and chicken. If you don’t have RD$500, you can’t make food,” Lucila begins to explain what happens when she goes out to get the ingredients for lunch.
Lucila is 67 years old and currently resides in Pantoja, Santo Domingo Oeste, with her husband, two grown children, and two granddaughters.
An increase in food prices means “a lot” to her and her family, since her husband Ramón, 68, sells natural juices, and one of her sons is a cab driver.
Lucila describes that both of their salaries (which together do not exceed RD$8,000) are not enough to stock up on food as they would like to for the whole month, but that they play around with a government card that has about RD$1,500 on it.
“He sells things on the street, but now with this situation not much is selling, there is little that is being sold. And the little that he (Ramón) earns, goes on fares,” she says. However, without wishing to dwell on the subject, Lucila says that she “lives in conformity and with confidence in God.”
“If you go up you can’t do anything, because you went up. What we have to do is to be in conformity with what God gives us,” were her words.
Like Lucila, Alayda has a similar scenario. She is a domestic worker and earns a salary of RD$9,000 with two children to support.
“That RD$9,000 is not enough for me. I have been responsible for the house since I was 11 years old, because since I was 11 years old my mother left me her own house and I had never gone through what I am going through right now,” Alayda says.
For her “luck,” her two children are aware of everything, and when she has to look for breakfast or snacks for them, they obey “whatever she has or doesn’t have on her;” however, it is a difficult situation.
She expressed that prices one day are fine, but when she buys what she bought the day before, they are worse, higher.
“Today I buy something at RD$50, tomorrow I can’t buy it at the same RD$50, because they tell you RD$55 and you say: But yesterday I bought it at 50 pesos… Yes, but today it has gone up! So they tell you… and you have to buy it because you need it,” says 48-year-old Alayda.
In the information systems Quintile I
According to their income, Lucila and Alayda belong to quintile I, the population with the lowest pay in the country.
The basic family basket of quintile I increased from RD$21,512.18 (US $377) in October 2020 to 22,463.32 (US $394) in May 2021, while the minimum wage in the country ranges between RD$10,729 (US $188) and RD$17,610 (US $309).
During May, increases were recorded in the prices of rice (2.10%), soybean oil (6.21%), avocados (15.46%), fresh chicken (0.92%), eggs (1.91%), beef (0.17%), chili peppers (5.02%), purified water (0.83%) and oranges (7.53%), according to the CPI report issued by the Central Bank.
Merchants and vendors claim that every time these increases occur, sales get “slow,” and consumers start to complain and limit themselves to buying.
“Sales are slow in all senses, it is not only bread. There is a rise that does not combine as with society I would say. Prices are very out of control,” said Domingo García, a vendor at the Doble A grocery store.
Domingo, who has been selling staple products for six years, said that sometimes he is hurt since he has to keep the same prices for a while because he deals in a poor sector.
“As these sectors are very impoverished we have to go according to the place,” he said.
On the other hand, others attribute the negative of the situation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Since the coronavirus arrived, everything has gone up. I have stopped selling bread, rice, sugar and oil. I used to sell bananas out there and I have stopped selling that too. What I sell is soft drinks, water, sweets. I stopped selling chicken because the only thing I was making a loss on, the only thing I sell cheaper is salt, that is, because it is mine (the premises), if it had been rented, I would have stopped selling it,” says Marichal Montero, 54 years old.