Exports to US ethanol producers are fuelling soaring prices of corn and wheat in Guatemala, prompting the local food industry to ask for government help against rising costs.

The leading food industry federation in Guatemala, Gremial de Fabricantes de Productores Alimenticios (GREFAL), has threatened to pass the higher raw material prices onto consumers in the Central American country.

According to GREFAL, corn prices have soared by 75% in the last year, with the price of wheat jumping 43%. However, food producers have been absorbing the cost, in part to assuage protests from leftist groups in the impoverished country.

A GREFAL spokesperson said food prices had remained stable, contradicting reports the cost of products like chicken, corn tortillas and bread had risen and triggered a 20% slump in consumption.

“We have asked the Government to act in this matter or we will have to increase prices,” the GREFAL spokesperson told just-food yesterday (25 June). The Government is considering slashing duties on imports of flour, corn, oil and animal fats to keep food prices in check, she added.

“We are hopeful that they will help in this matter,” the spokesperson said. “But we have to wait to see what happens in future meetings.”