Hyperinflated Arepa Index VIII: A Surprising Drop!

September 6, 2015


On the eight time to get a data point, Miguel gets all cocky and invites a buddy, the same guy that wrote the Wall Street Journal article and we went and had some pretty nice arepas. I had my usual, while Kejal had a caraotas and yellow cheese arepa, as he has become Venezolanized in his five years here. This one did not count, the same as the delicious mango juices that I had. We went for the data point on the arepas, but the conversation was so good, that it became an afterthought, it was just intriguing to find out how much the HAI went up.

Except it went down.

As I sat there trying to comprehend the Bs.389 number for my queso de mano arepa, I could not help but call the waiter and ask: What happened, how come prices have dropped?

I was, of course, expecting a tale of pressure, visiting agents or whatever, but instead, the apparently clueless waiter started going on a tale about how they now separate the VAT from the price and the 389.75 was without the VAT.

So he brings over a menu to prove it and it says my arepa con queso de mano is Bolivars 440 with VAT, except ther is no way that 389.75 plus VAT adds up to Bs. 440. But he claims it is that number. (It would have to be 391.1 and that was not the number in the receipt)

So, I have to use the menu number Bs. 440, a Bs. 30 drop from the last time. And even if the waiter seemed clueless, I have to think that something happened, but can’t confirm it.

And it makes little sense that it dropped, unless there was some pressure to drop prices, as I had visited the Mercado Libre de Chacao and found that cheeses, the delicious un-pasteurized Venezuelan white cheeses, went up sharply since my last visit. About 40% if I remember correctly.

But a data point is a data point and the first drop in the HAI occurs nine and a half months after it was started. This is a 6.3% drop in five weeks, a 166% rise in nine and a half months.

I had actually expected a 20% rise, but I have been wrong every single time about my expectations. I stick to the data and we now wait till the next number in one more month…

(The arepa was still delicious and only 59 cents and the last exchange rate of the unmentionable rate. But, of course, Venezuelans earn Bolivars, not dollars. This is very expensive for them.)

55 Responses to “Hyperinflated Arepa Index VIII: A Surprising Drop!”

  1. onetrillionzimbas Says:

    hormiguero palmero yo fui bobo

  2. onetrillionzimbas Says:

    triunfable trinidad

  3. onetrillionzimbas Says:

  4. onetrillionzimbas Says:

  5. Big head Says:

    To me, it is not so mysterious. The regime is flooding the country with its remaining dollars in order to temporarily reduce shortages so that they can buy the upcoming elections. After the elections, all the remaining coins in the couch cushions will have been spent, and food shortages will be severe enough to cause a revolution.

  6. Soozze Says:

    Meanwhile we wonder where Prez Maduro will house all the Syrian refugees he has invited to Venezeuela ?

  7. onetrillionzimbas Says:

  8. onetrillionzimbas Says:

  9. nacazo Says:

    History of East European countries after WWII is repeating itself in Venezuela. All those countries created iron curtains so that their people would not be able to move out. Seems that slowly but surely Maduro is doing the same (with direction from Cuba no doubt). Welcome to Prison Venezuela. If you can get out before it’s impossible to do so. But maybe I’m just being pessimistic.

  10. I lived in Argentina in hyperinflation days. The company gave us a “cost of living allowance”, re-estimated every 3 months by a consulting firm based on their price survey. Inflation was running 200-300 % per year, prices were adjusted every week, twice a month, and so on. But sometimes the survey date came and the store where they checked the price of tuna wouldn’t increase the price for a whole month. This whacked our allowance and caused all sorts of complaints.

    A friend of mine was working for a weapons firm, they had a very simple survey which included the bus ticket price, and those were adjusted irregularly. So this guy would throw a party whenever the government announced the new bus ticket price.

    Maybe if you had a multi component index with 7-8 items the index would work better. But it’s almost impossible to get a good sense for real inflation in cases like Venezuela’s.

  11. IslandCanuck Says:

    Inflation for August 8.9%
    Inflation for first 8 months of 2015 106.5% (annualized at 150.4%)
    Inflation last 12 months 185.7%


  12. nacazo Says:


    A favored Brazilian beef producer(JBS SA) gets paid on time. Other brazilian companies (BRF SA, MGF SA, Minerva SA) and a local company (Polar) do not.

    But what else is new in Venezuela?

    • Drunk Says:

      “Port officials say the subsidized food is channeled to state shops in areas most threatened by riots or the opposition’s campaigning.”

      That’s an interesting lesson. If you want subsidized meat in your neighborhood, start a riot.

  13. Data generation process and economic theory shows all over the times that low frequency variations – ups and down in real goods – are the worst news regarding overall inflation in the economy.
    If you can measure weekly variability you would measure the ritm of hiperinflation which gives you a good idea how the process is moving on, so compare with oil and gold prices for instance,
    Note that even though both words looks similar, I use “variability” and not volatility. Prices varies, and even during hiperinflation times, the difference is that in the long term, in this case, the figure projects itself as an hipérbole, which gives you an idea how unstable is that process, since it does not signal any convergence, which is different be on your short term measure which shows a change downwards. The important issue here is the one grade does not make a mountain. But, some might believe that Maduro is copping whit the hiperinflation which he promotes.
    But, do not forget that your arepero is clever, he might not increase the price this month, regarding demand factors, but for sure he is moving up prices in many other complementary goods which you or the following custumer take together with the arepa con queso de mano. So, accordingly with arepero numbers he might be watching at the net money hi make daily.
    My other suggestion is that if you do not find any other example, any other good, I suggest you the “pollo en brasas which I m pretty sure is more reliable for your purposes.

  14. nacazo Says:

    My guess is that the restaurant owner puts a price to the arepas based on how much do the corn flour and cheese cost to them that day. Therefore, on that day the corn flour was cheaper. You say the cheese went up 40% so corn flour must have gone down sharply. Why? I’ m guessing here but maybe the Border shut down did have an effect on the corn flour demand (less chance to take it to Colombia therefore lower demand and then the sellers dropped the price?). An interview with the owner of the arepa place is in order to understand what’s going on but somehow i doubt they will agree to it even if the identities are kept secret.

    • Ira Says:

      You can’t set your retail prices today based on today’s wholesale prices, since you bought your inventiory at yesterday’s prices (figuratively speaking).

      • nacazo Says:

        ok so the price would be based on the price of corn flour + cheese when the arepera owner bought the day before or three days before or whenever it was. I think the border closures have reduced the demand for corn meal (as the cheese price still went up) and therefore the price bas gone down. Probably the reduction in demand is temporary until the people that take corn flour out of Venezuela find new routes but it will depend on the cost of the new route and the difference between the price in Colombia and in Venezuela. For corn flour the price difference may not be worth the effort but I’m pretty sure for gas is still profitable so gas contraband willl probably continue thru other routes (Arauca?, definitely Zulia-> Guajira). All this, just speculation on my part, of course.

  15. Charlie Says:

    One thing I’ve noticed the last few weeks is more people checking prices at the scanners in the supermarket, when before people just kept filling up their shopping carts. Also, I see more and more people leaving things in the shopping carts once they get to the cashier. And this is even at supermarkets in affluent areas in Caracas.

    Of course, there’re still the few that seem to have all the money in the world and spend it like three’s no tomorrow.

    • Charlie Says:


    • captainccs Says:

      You can get some incredible surprises at the checkout counter. A quart of local almond milk is BsF 750 while imported is BsF 3,000. Now they stamp some products with the word “gourmet” and the price is 20 times the price of the non-existent regulated products. Not long ago, when I didn’t use the scanner, the lady at the checkout counter asked me if I really wanted to buy the toilette paper. I asked her why she asked. She told me the price and I agreed that I didn’t not need that product. A couple of years ago, when I noticed the shortage of toilette paper I started to hoard the stuff. I still have several dozen rolls. Hoarding is an excellent way to fight inflation. If inflation is running at 35%, putting your money in toilette paper is the same as getting 35% interest on cash! Is it any wonder that the government that causes the inflationary crisis does not want you to hoard?

      El congelador | The Freezer

  16. Tony Tan Keng Yam Says:

    Rent/decent Apartment/house?: (Ranchitos and 125 “viviendas” excluded) $$$$

    Electricity, Water, condominio, basura.. $$

    Celular Phones $

    Cable TV, other home expenses: $

    Schools, books, Private or semi private or public: $

    Car parts, expenses:

    Clothing (underwear or socks once a year, only) $$

    Food: (per Captain and Arepa index: 10$month per person?

    (Nothing to be bought from Millions of Bachaqueros at real prices, NOTHING from resellers, everyone does their own lines every week)

    Medicine, dentists, Doctors, clinics (private… or not..) $$$

    Insurances?? Car, home, properties? $$$

    Credit card and other debts? $$$

    Accidentes, imprevistos.. que la virgen disponga.

    No one, EVER, goes to the restaurant, movies, beach, any clubs, any sports activities besides running from thieves, NOTHING, zero hobbies, zero luxuries, pair of sun glasses, gym, bicycle, NOTHING.

    So yes, about 50 x “minimum salaries” should easily cover it.

    The only people stealing are the top Government officials and military, judges.

    El Pueblo, the average people are all extremely honest, hard-working, living with minimum salaries.

    Y las vacas vuelan.

  17. captainccs Says:

    September 5 at the supermarket

    Item			Oz US
    Bell peper	  9.2
    White potato	21.5
    Yellow onion	15.9
    Parsley		  3.5
    Radishes		14.5
    Limes		15.5
    Bananas		41.1
    Papaya		49.0
    Maria biscuits	  8.8
    Bs.			1,501.22
    Exchange	705.31
    $			2.13
    • Boludo Tejano Says:

      Are these BF/Kilo prices?

      • captainccs Says:

        I didn’t list the individual item’s prices, only their weight in US ounces (1 lb = 16 ounces) and the total price in BsF. It’s about 1 bell pepper, 8 potatoes, 8 onions, 1 package of radishes, 8 limes, 6 bananas, 1 papaya and 1 package of biscuits. About one week’s provisions of greens and fruits for a single person.

        If you have dollars fresh food in Venezuela is very cheap. Not necessarily so processed/packaged foods. I was reading about hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic. The Germans were really upset with foreigners coming with hard currency who found everything really cheap while the average German could hardly afford to eat. Maynard Keynes was right about the economic disaster of the Treaty of Versailles.

        “Keynes predicts economic chaos”

        In Venezuela we have the same economic disaster but self inflicted by Chavismo

  18. Gabriel Garcia Says:

    (x+0,12X) = 440; x= 392,85; 392,85 – lo del mesonero = Precio sin iva…

  19. Tony Tan Keng Yam Says:

    “The arepa was still delicious and only 59 cents and the last exchange rate of the unmentionable rate. But, of course, Venezuelans earn Bolivars, not dollars. This is very expensive for them.”

    I still doubt that. Was the arepera full of people? Aren’t the supermarkets and malls crawling with shoppers, even the Morrocoy beaches seem very populated on weekends..

    People seem to have plenty of cash. somehow. The lines for the ATM’s are long, kids are in school, somehow, alphabrutizandose with the Chavista brain-wash program, despite the high crime the streets are full in Caracas and elsewhere.

    If the “minimum salary” only buys you 2 diapers and hald a chicken, forget a fancy reina pepiada, how do they do it?

    We know that No one pays Rent. Obviously. No one at all. Anywhere.

    We know no one pays utilities, no electricity, water, nothing. Perhaps a few Cents for the cell phone? Cable TV must also be free. Nonone pays any taxes, or VAT, of course, No one, right? Gas is free, Transportation is free, they say, unless your battery or tires die out.

    Even then, how come the vast majority has plenty of cash, and all they want is more products to buy, anything, almost at any Bachaquero reselling price, no problem!, they want more cash from their ATMs, larger paper bills…

    I suspect Galactic Corruption, Formidable Guisos, everyone must be enchudafado somehow, from the lowest workers to the whatever’s left of the middle class, benefiting not just from all the freebies, but they must have additional income.

    Yes, the vast majority must be complicit with the Kleptomaniac regime.

    Either Stealing, flat out, 5 Million Public employees, 35 “Ministries” of Felicidad Suprema, and such, or enchufados with fake payrolls, fake second jobs, certainly not doing ANY “minimum salary” job full time.

    It would be mathematically impossible to survive.

    Venezuela has become Kleptozuela, a country of thieves, enchufados, corruptos, complices callados, politiqueros, bachaqueros, mata-tigres, doing shady deals at ALL levels, everywhere, left and right.

    No other way to survive, even if you wanted to run an honest small business, how? Very, very few can do it, as my friends that are still there tell me. Very few.

    Massive Corruption everywhere, not just the Chavista politicians, judges and Generals. Todos enchufados en el desfalco de lo que era Vzla.

    Otherwise, the arepera would have shut down long ago with those impossible “minimum salaries”. Feel free to do the math.

    • Maria Says:

      I rarely agree with you but, I have been asking myself the same question. My family lives in Ciudad Guayana and they report the same thing….malls packed with people, ATM lines, people still party like there is no tomorrow… How do they do it?

    • moctavio Says:

      Well, I have found exactly the opposite. Relatives who have good jobs can no longer afford to go out, people I know who cant go to an arepera at all, who no longer can afford alcoholic drinks or travel despite being “middle class”. Lines for ATM’s are long because there is a shortage of bills. A friend told me she does not go to panaderias anymore with her kids, as a juice and a cachito for all four comes out to Bs. 2,500. Better make arepas at home.

      In fact, this arepera was not full, neither were two of the three restaurants I went to. It was the less expensive one that was full and it was Thursday, the night that everyone likes to go out. One of the restaurants I went to has begun accepting BOB, as wine has become too expensive.

      And I am talking Caracas, the interior is a whole different world.

      • Tony Tan Keng Yam Says:

        The math still does not add up. You are obviously an honest, good guy from a good family. They are the exception that confirms the rule. And I bet they all make at least 5 x minimum salary, if not more.

        I’d say over 80% of the remaining adult population in Kleptozuela is corrupt, one way or another. Most do steal in various ways, some participate in the scams at certain levels, you have to be at least complicit to even operate any business. I also have friends left there.. They are among the very few honest ones too.

        The vast majority simply could not live the way they still do, even with triple the “minimum” salary. Fill in the basic expenditure columns I detailed..

        I reiterate what I’m saying: Most Vzlans participate in multiple Guisos, starting with the 5 million working for the “Government”. Over 80% if not 90% +.

      • Tony Tan Keng Yam Says:

        The other 1 Million+ educated, honest Professional had to leave the country. Not just because we didn’t want to risk getting killed, but because it became impossible to carry on with any Honest private business. Impossible. Ask anyone, in any industry, small, medium or large business left standing. O te ensucias las manos o te tumbaron hace tiempo.

        Corruption is way a more insidious, pervasive, contagious cancer than the few honest people think. It’s everywhere by now in Vzla. As every pore of every fabric of society, at every level of what’s left.

  20. Tony Tan Keng Yam Says:

    That’s the worst that can happen: The dollar seems stuck at $700, the inflation appears to calm down, the lines are shorter, less escasez.

    The Zombie population seems satisfied, no one cares about Estados de Excepcion, the next elections Fraud is ready to go, the infamous Boiling Frog experiment is succeeding.

    Welcome to Cubazuela2 for generations to come.

  21. Saludos Miguel. Creo que los precios de muchos productos no regulados en Venezuela están llegando a niveles tan ridiculamente altos, fuera del alcance de la mayoría de la población, que ya pasaron el punto de equilibrio oferta-demanad y tal vez empiecen a estabilizarse.

  22. Funny, stilll does not ake it to 440, but I am sure it said 12.5 in the receipt

  23. captainccs Says:

    Devil, IVA is 12% which would bring the arepa to 436.52. Better check your numbers.

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