After reading about food shortages worldwide, especially rice, over the last few months and wondering when the street-level crunch would be felt – it came.
Last week after work I returned to my residential street in eastern Bangkok (Ramkamhang Road), went to my favorite side-of-the-road food shop and ordered one of my go-to dishes: chicken fried rice with a side of fried chicken with garlic. This is a massive meat-heavy portion for locals, but for a foreigner who works-out, it packs an energy punch I love and attracts dismayed looks from Thais when they see it all piled on one plate.
Usually this two-dish combo is 50 Baht (B), a large amount for a local for one meal but a bargain for a food-loving foreigner. Last week the price went up to 60 B. For me this price is still a bargain and I have no problem paying it. The food is fresh, cooked to-order and the taste is my favorite in the kingdom.
This seemingly ‘small’ 20% price increase for me is major for low to mid-income earners (the majority of people in my area) and the majority of Thais. Such persons likely allot about 75B/day for food. This would acquire three standard-sized dishes, each about 20-25B, with a small bottle of Coke being enjoyed with one meal. It’s easy to imagine their daily allowance will now go up to about 90B/day.
Minimum wage in Bangkok is 199B/day, meaning a person earning this would make about 4-5,000B/month. When you factor in rent (1,500-2,000B/month for a simple apartment) and food at 90B/day (2,700B/month), you’re quickly over 4,000B/month, leaving little for transport, entertainment or savings.
While food prices don’t immediately impact my life it’s easy to see how such rises can quicly put significant strain on the majority of Thailand’s populace. How much stress can people take and when will the breaking point come?
Just some food for thought.