Saturday, February 5, 2011

Got Milk?

I winced the other day, as I reached into the fridge at the supermarket to grab a gallon of milk. The price tag read $6.00 and, mind you, it's not even organic. Taking into account the 7% sales tax (1% municipal and 6% island), a gallon of milk in Puerto Rico costs consumers $6.42. This reflects an overall 7.14% increase in prices, as a quart of milk is now $1.50 and a half gallon is $3.00, before taxes. On January 20th, a federal judge approved the increase, ruling in favor of the lobby groups representing dairy farmers. Due to a 20% increase in cow feed, and other operating expenses, many farmers and milk processors found themselves with no other choice but to go to court and demand for this new increase in milk prices. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the island imports an estimated 80% its food, and likely includes the cow feed.

Puerto Rico is not an anomaly though, since food prices throughout the world are expected to increase. Nevertheless, consumers are less than thrilled at having to pay more for milk. Ironically, Tres Monjitas and Suiza Dairy, the island's two principal milk processing plants have sided with consumers. They fear that this price increase will lead to a decrease in milk consumption. Indeed, during the past two weeks or so, I've noticed most of the milk gallons in the supermarket were dangerously close to expiring. In case you're wondering how much organic milk costs in Puerto Rico, I actually have never seen it sold on the island. I've been trying to convince my other family members to drink soy milk, which I purchase frequently at Costco. After doing some calculating, it's actually cheaper and it's organic.

Correction: the 6% island tax does not apply to necessities such as milk and water. However, the 1% municipal tax does apply. A gallon of milk should cost a total of $6.06.

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