55 pounds of rice – a month!

According to the Panama government the shopping list for an average family [3.8 persons] is 55 pounds of rice, 13 loaves of bread, two dozen eggs, 23 pounds of chicken two and a half pounds of yellow cheese, seven pounds of cheap meat, etc.

The booming Panama economy, plus the high cost of fuel oil and the devaluing of the US dollar [the currency in Panama] has created inflation. Pretty much for us the cost of things like food, construction materials has doubled in the past ten years. One of the key factors that helped Varela come from behind to win the Presidency was a promised to instigate temporary price controls on the most common food items.

Ater “extensive meetings with suppliers, producers, representatives of supermarket chains, retailers, among other business players” the new government has issued …

Executive Decree No. 165 of 1 July 2014, [which] fixes maximum prices of 22 basic food products, and also creates a “Price Revue Committee” made up of the Ministers of Trade and Industry, Agriculture and Finance, who will evaluate requests to submit price revues by individual companies, producer associations or business associations.

One of the determining factors in establishing control was choosing brands that were in a more economical range, because if it was considered the most well to do consumers would not notice the savings in their pockets. A rule stated in Article 2 says that business establishments must offer at least one brand with price controls. Maximum marketing margins to other brands, cannot be more than 10% or 15% on the price of the retail cost price.

Obviously a tricky move and “Some entrepreneurs and producers argue that this measure will bring shortages because of high demand that will be generated. Others say that traders will be affected in profits after the rise in production costs caused by raising the minimum wage and electricity prices.”  [NEWSROOM PANAMA]

Traditional Panamanian cuisine is rice and beans, chicken, and bananas or plantains, and salad.  You can get this lunch at many local restaurants for $3.50 to $4.  For variation there is salad, bananas or plantains, chicken, rice and beans.  The only folks on earth that I have seen consume more rice are the Philippine crew members on ships!  Panamanians like rice with a fried egg on top for breakfast, rice and beans for lunch, and rice with chicken or fish at night.  Rice is a major crop in Panama grown, not in rice paddies as in much of Asia, but in huge low-lying fields.

The best rice we have EVER eaten was grown by our Gnobe Bugle worker’s dad on the Comarca and hand threshed.  Flavorful, a little more brownish than the processed white rice, and a lot more nutrition.

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