Argentines have been busy traveling in their thousands to go shopping in neighboring countries, like Chile and Paraguay as of late. Why? Well, Argentina currently holds the cup for being the most expensive country in Latin America — bad news for those of us living here.
According to El Pais, prices in Chile, for example, are up to three times cheaper for clothes, electronics and household goods. For a pair of designer shoes, you’re looking at around AR$ 1600 in Mendoza, while the average Chilean price stands at AR$ 600 – 800. In need of a decent TV? It’s around AR$ 7000 – 8000 this side of the border, compared to AR$ 3000 – 4000 in Chile.
What many of these savvy shoppers won’t have noticed though is that a lot of these identical products that they are purchasing for hundreds or thousands of pesos less in other countries are actually made in Argentina.
According to research done by Clarín this week, dozens of food goods, drinks and other mass-produced items produced in Argentina are sold by supermarket chains in Chile, Uruguay and Brazil at prices up to 37% lower than when they are found on shop shelves in Buenos Aires.
Here’s another example for those of us with a sweet tooth? That’s bad news for your wallet if you’re living in Buenos Aires. An 110 gram bar of Mantecol, that nougatastic Argentine classic, costs AR $33.85 in a Buenos Aires supermarket but only AR $21.60 in Santiago de Chile and AR $21.35 in Montevideo (-37%).
Oreo fans in Argentina might also want to consider a trip across the Chilean border: 50 gram Mini Oreos cost a whopping AR$ 11.10 in Buenos Aires, compared to AR$ 7.10 in Chile (-36%). Meanwhile, Arcor’s peanut nougat costs 36% more in Argentina than Brazil; Argentine kids will find their favorite Toddy cookies for 21% less in Chile and their parents will be disgusted that Argentine Chocoarroz alfajores cost 12% less across the border than they do in the country where they’re made.
According to Clarín, one shocked Argentine tourist, Martín Gutiérrez, even took a photo in Uruguay to evidence a massive price difference. “I’ve just come from Punta del Este and over there I paid 49 Uruguayan pesos for dulce de leche ‘Ser’ dessert – that’s AR$ 27.50, whereas it’s AR$ 33 when I buy one in Buenos Aires. It’s incredible!”
But sugary goodness is not the only thing affected by these cost discrepancies – Argentine dairy products can also face a 21% difference depending on whether they are sold within their country of origin or not. In Uruguay, a bottle of La Serenísima milk falls from AR$ 32.99 (the price in Argentina) to AR$ 28.65 and the same brand’s cream cheese costs AR$ 182.60 per kilo rather than AR$ 219 (-17%). The price of SanCor’s cheese Quesabores drops from AR$ 65.70 to AR$ 51.69 (-21%) across the Río de la Plata in Uruguay, meanwhile 100 grams of their butter costs 13% less in Brazil.
Presto Pronta cornflour (-10%), Quaker oats (-9%), Taragüí tea (13%), Ades juices (17%), La Campagnola fruit cocktails (-6%) and Nucete olives (-19%) were among other Argentine items found to be cheaper elsewhere.
Besides foodstuffs, Clarín also found massive differences in Argentine cleaning products, with prices up to 24% less in other countries. Blem floor wax, for example, which is sold for AR$ 61.20 in Buenos Aires, can be purchased for AR$ 46.45 in Chile.
When questioned about the differences, supermarket owners and food manufacturers put the phenomenon down to the fact that taxes are steeper in Argentina and salaries are also higher than in other Latin American countries.
Juan Vasco Martínez, Executive director of the United Supermarkets Association (ASU), told Clarín that in a country like Chile, “supermarkets have half the labor costs compared to Argentina, and costs associated with logistics are lower too. Also, the tax burden, which accumulates along the production chain, is two-thirds of what it is here.”
Martínez attempted to justify trend by explaining, “a much more aggressive policy of bonuses and discounts has been adopted in Argentina than in other countries. These comparisons are made using shelf prices but people actually end up paying less.”
As far as the Food Products Industry Coordinator (COPAL) is concerned, “such a comparison is neither consistent nor appropriate” because they are “totally different markets” where factors such as the exchange rate and different costs and taxes seem to “distort” values. COPAL also outlined that a “growing tax burden” is also affecting matters and that taxes already represent 40.7% of the final price of food, and 46.5% of the value of beverages.
In addition, they explained that, in order to grow in other markets, companies have to adopt “long-term strategies” that may imply lower prices. “In any case, Argentina needs to work on strengthening the competitiveness of its food industry,” they concluded.
So next time you find yourself with a shopping cart over the other side on an Argentine border, be sure to stock up on groceries and not just that fancy designer jacket or new iPhone you’ve been wanting to get your hands on for ages.