My Pricesmart Index: May Not Be Scientific, But…


TICO BULL – I didn’t need the Programa Estado de la Nación (State of the Nation Program) to tell me food prices in Costa Rica are higher than other parts in Latin America.

In my unscientific and probably worth to no one study I used Pricesmart since it has stores across Central America (Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica), the Caribbean and now venturing south, Colombia. The stores are all operated by the same company and, with some regional difference, look all the same and have the same products. Also, my Pricesmart club membership card works in all.

Not having a budget like survey companies, I could only do one country, so I chose Colombia. The city of Cali specifically.

[su_pullquote]Related: Costa Rica Has The Highest Cost of Food in Latin America[/su_pullquote]So, a few months back, armed my shopping list of a dozen items I normally buy in Costa Rica, I was able to compare prices between Ticolandia and  and the land of the Salsa. No, not the stuff you put on nachos, the dance.

My shopping list included items like nuts, cookies, dog food, toilet paper, pasta, nacho chips and salsa, frozen foods, liquor, soaps, beer, beef (US import), etc. – all items imported from the US, being the same brand name and packaging.

Pricesmart operates four stores in Colombia (45 million plus population), two in Cali, one in Barranquilla and the first store opened last week in Bogota. In Costa Rica (4.7 million population) it operates six stores.

What I found was a difference of about 30% less in Colombia over Costa Rica.  Except the roasted chicken.

For some strange reason the roasted chicken was priced higher in Colombia than in Costa Rica. Stranger still was that in Colombia the roasted chicken at Pricesmart was priced about 35% higher than in the supermarkets, while in Costa Rica it is the reverse.

For example, the chicken at Pricesmart was ¢15.000 pesos (US$8 at the then exchange rate), while in Costa Rica it is ¢2.995 (US$5.50).  At the Exito in Colombia, their roasted chicken was ¢9.000 pesos, while in Costa Rica, it is ¢4.000 at Masxmenos and ¢5.800 at Automercado.

My great Colombian friend working at Pricesmart in Escazú laughed at the reason I was given for the high price of chicken at the Pricesmart Cali store: their chicken is imported! Yeah, from Medellin or Bogota, maybe.

My survey may not be scientific, but what I do know is that every time I go to the supermarket in Costa Rica I have to bring more colones with me.

Written by Rico


"In my spare time I'm a really nice guy!" RICO is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! Rico brings his special kind of savvy to online marketing. His websites are engaging, provocative, informative and sometimes off the wall, where you either like or you leave it. The same goes for him, like him or leave him.There is no middle ground. No compromises, only a passion to present reality as he sees it!