By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter
BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – Putting Christmas dinner on the table could be considerably pricier than last year, research shows. The prices of typical holiday food like chicken, pork and bacalhau, or salt cod, typically eaten by Brazilians on Christmas Eve, have risen by 18.60 percent according to a Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) study.
Bad weather driving up commodity prices and businesses’ desire to capitalize on the season during a year of stagnant economic growth are to blame for the increased cost of celebrating this year, and consumers should shop around for the best deals, experts say.
“We had some commodity price increases and also the profit margins are declining for enterprises because the economy is running on a low level of growth,” said Nicola Tingas, chief economist of Acrefi, the National Association of Credit, Financing and Investment. “When you have seasonal sales it is an opportunity for businesses to try and replace the profit margin.”
Consumers are also likely to find different prices for the same products depending on where they look. A survey conducted by Globo in six supermarkets – Extra, Guanabara, Mundial, Princesa, Walmart and Zona Sul – last week showed products can be twice as expensive from one location to another.
Meanwhile, research published on Monday by the Fundacão Procon-SP showed prices of Christmas food products varying almost three hundred percent in São Paulo city and thirteen other cities in São Paulo state. The study found the starkest price difference in Jacarei (SP), where a 750g Nestlé Alpino panettone cost R$14.20 in one supermarket and R$52.99 in another – a difference of more than 273 percent.
“The best deals come from good market research,” said Maria Ines Dolci, Institutional Coordinator of the consumers’ rights association Proteste in an interview. “Consumers who search and compare prices, terms of payment, installments, etc. have excellent conditions to find a good offer.”
The Procon survey also showed a significant increase in the cost of products year on year such as boxes of chocolates (up 18.61 percent), cereals and farofas (up 18.12 percent), preserves (20.28 percent), and panettone bread and Christmas cakes (7.21 percent).
Experts warned consumers should plan carefully and resist the urge to splurge on consumer items using credit lines they cannot afford. As the country’s swelling middle class adjusts to its increased access to credit, record figures from Serasa Experian Consultancy show that 5.5 million more Brazilians defaulted on their debts between January and October this year.
“Buy only what you need, and research prices. One must be careful not to compromise the budget and start the year even more in debt,” advised Ms. Dolci. “Consumers should always check, for example, payment terms and the state of products, even with the rush of Christmas shopping.”
Despite prices that are initially higher, promotions may start early, as markets attempt to offload unsold stock to deal-seeking late shoppers. The best deals will appear three days before Christmas, predicted the president of the Bolsa de Gêneros Alimentícios do Rio, José de Sousa.
“If today a kilo of chestnuts is R$18, it will be sold at R$2. The stores have to sell their stock,” Sousa told Globo.