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The Peruvian town where a half-liter of Coca Cola costs S/.5
Prices are high at the El Pata bodega (Photo: Rodrigo Rodrich Portugal)
Rodrigo Rodrich Portugal for El Comercio
Translated and adapted by Nick Rosen
April 23, 2012
In the remote town of Angamos, right on the border with Brazil, the only shelf in the El Pata bodega offers what is available, which is not much: rice, sugar, cooking oil and other basic consumer goods.
The store is looked after by Delvin Llerana. We ask him the prices: “S/. 4 for a kilo of rice or sugar, S/.9 for a liter of cooking oil, S/.5 for a can of sardines, and S/. 6 for a kilo of potatoes or onions.” He sees my petrified face, and adds: “Understand that only two boats arrive here per year.”
The prices of products in this town located in the district of Yaquerana, in the province of Requena, are two- or-three times higher than those in the large cities of the country. This is the case throughout the border that Loreto shares with Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil.
Certainly, the basic basket of goods is priced so high that it’s impossible to imagine that a bodega can be profitable.
“Who pays that?” I ask Llerena. It’s a valid question; a teacher on the border region earns S/.1,200 per month, a regional government employee S/.750. For casual work, like bricklaying, the pay is S/.20 per day.
“People have their businesses, their little farms,” Llerena says, and he gives no further explanation. But he says that his business is profitable, selling S/.3,000 per month, of which 25%-30% is profit, and that there are six other stores in the town, all making about the same amount.
In San Antonio del Estrecho (in Maynas province), on the Colombia border, bodega owner Mirta Yaicarte sells a tank of cooking gas for S/.90. Meanwhile, in Cabo Pantoja (also in Maynas) on the border with Ecuador, a kilo of noodles costs S/.6, a can of milk costs S/.4, and a half-bottle of (warm) Coca-Cola costs S/.5.
Border commerce is affected by logistics, by the difficulty and cost involved in reaching these distant locations in Loreto. The towns communicate principally by river, and some by air. A boat charges S/0.50 per kilo of cargo, while a small plane charges S/.3.
To arrive to Cabo Pantoja, for example, it is easier to travel from Quito, Ecuador than from Iquitos. To reach Estrecho, one must travel on Peruvian, Brazilian and Colombian rivers during a 25-day trip.
At first glance, the prices for basic goods on the border are exorbitant in relation to the meager incomes of the locals. But for the Dean of the College of Economists of Loreto, Roger Grandez, it’s a phenomenon that should not surprise us: “The cultivation of coca, the production of cocaine, and narcotrafficking are what sustains life in the border towns, and explain how they can consume such expensive products,” he says.
According to a report from DIRANDRO-Loreto’s intelligence branch, it is estimated that there are no fewer than 25,000 hectares of coca plantations in Loreto, the majority of them along the Putumayo and Yavarí rivers, along the borders with Colombia and Brazil.
According to that report, the situatio holds throughout the border, where Colombian and Brazilian narcos have escaped persecution in their respective countries.
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Total coments: 1
Commented By: ArturoH
On: April 23, 2012. 3:35 pm
It makes you wonder when they'll get roads going out there. It's difficult of course. I don't consider myself an environmentalist but I'm not super pro-industy/modernization either. Both are important and need to be balanced. Regardless, for these people to benefit from the growing standrad of living in the country they need to be better connected. When I was in Iquitos it felt to me like a weird tropical Alaska! Closer to Brazil than Perú, much as Alaska is with Canada. Ofcourse you can get to Alaska by sea which helps.
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