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Peru: "Customers are shocked [by] the prices."

(By Lucien Chauvin For The Washington Post)

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Carmen Lopez, 24, has owned a market stall in the Jesus Maria district of Lima since 2006. She sells dry goods, which have seen the biggest price increases here in recent months. She used to operate a small bodega out of her family's home in downtown Lima but decided to become independent.

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"My customers are shocked when they see the prices," said Lopez, who is single. "Some of them look like they are going to have a heart attack, especially when they are buying things like rice."

The price of rice more than doubled in the first quarter of this year and is just now coming down -- about 20 percent in the last month. As they did with wheat earlier this year, Peruvian authorities have called on residents to switch from rice to potatoes.

Lopez does not believe that people will make the switch.

"People are accustomed to eating rice," she said. "They aren't going to switch, even though it is more expensive. They are buying less but still buying."

Lopez also does not believe the government line that high global prices and speculators were the reasons for rising prices. "This is the government's fault, with its free-trade agreements that are not benefiting us," she said. "Prices are going up because we are exporting more food. This is wrong."

-- Lucien Chauvin

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