A few weeks ago, a friend who sells tortillas for a living complained that a quintal (100 lb bag) of maize went from $16 in January to now $36 . The maize and propane gas to cook it with are her main material costs. She buys 1-2 bags a week.
June 2011 newspapers report a quintal costs up to $40 , due to last year’s bad harvest and growing season starting late this year. Maize had already doubled from the April 2010 price of $13.50 to $26 in April 2011.
So, maize has TRIPLED in price in one year and 3 months. It’s a basic staple people need to eat every day. It’s like bread tripling in the United States.
Excessive rain last year contributes to the problem, but massive speculation in commodities worldwide, and very likely, local speculation are major factors in this increase.
So far no reports of speculation or price manipulation of maize have come out that I know of, BUT the price of BEANS was manipulated by at least one importer of beans.
Fidel Ángel Cruz, the second largest importer of beans in El Salvador, will pay a fine of $77,990 for manipulating the price. They omitted to report importing 4,000 quintal bags (100 pounds each) of red beans. They were found guilty of stockpiling (acaparamiento) red beans in 2010.
According to the DiarioColatino.com, the Department of Consumer defense in El Salvador is also investigating three other companies on complaints of price manipulation: Agroindustrias Gumarsal (the main importer of beans in El Salvador), Agencia Mira, and Comercial Santiaguito. All three had enough inventory of beans to meet the demand without increasing the price during August and September of last year .