Semana Santa is when Costa Ricans change their diets to more fish and other traditional Lenten foods.
The holiday also is the time for surveyors of the Ministerio de Economía, Industría y Comerico to check up on prices in the retail stores.
The ministry found wide differences in reports from 25 supermarkets and 13 fish stores in San José, Cartago, Alajuela and Heredia.
As usual, the survey showed it pays to shop around. A can of Del Monte fruit cocktail costs 1,000 colons ($2.02) in Palí in San Sebastián and 1,786 colons ($3.61) in Mega Súper in La Uruca, the surveyors found. That’s a difference of 78.6 percent, they said.
There were similar price differences among identical products. A tin of calamares or squid packaged by Sardimar cost 525 colons ($1.06) in Más x Menos in Paseo de las Flores and 887 colons ($1.79) at Mega Súper in La Uruca for a difference the ministry computed to be nearly 70 precent.
Even canned tuna, a staple of the Easter season, showed differences ranging from 39 percent for smoked pieces in oil to 58.9 percent for pieces in sunflower oil.
Vast differences were encountered in similar products. Tuna in oil with vegetables by Gomes da Costa at Hipermás in Heredia and Curridabat cost 520 colons ($1.05). Calvo brand of tuna with jalapeños cost 1,270 colons ($2.57) at Perimercado in Escazú and Pavas.
That is a difference of 144.2 percent, surveyors said.
Similar differences were found with cut vegetables in vinegar, encurtido, 135.8 percent, and whole canned palmitos, 85.33 percent.
The ministry also warned that purchasers should check the net weight on the cans when making price comparisons.
The lower prices were found in Palí, Mega Súper, Perimercado and Más x Menos, the ministry said. Higher prices were in Automercado, Mega Súper and certain Más x Menos locations.
In nearly all cases, fish stores, pescaderias, had lower prices for various types of fish than supermarkets. A kilo of tilapia was listed at 4,200 ($8.49) colons in Mas x Menos in Rohrmoser and 3,000 colons ($6.07) at Pescadería la Única in Heredia.
The differences in prices do not always mean stores are gouging customers. Retail prices reflect rents, pilferage, bulk buying and sometimes prices of loss leaders or sales items. There also are premiums paid for branded products who producers pay for advertising campaigns.
The entire survey and list of prices can be found HERE.