Each Christmas season since 1984 Gilberto Carrillo’s family has wrapped thousands of tamales by hand, but this year he must charge customers more than ever for the tasty holiday favorite.
It’s a routine that keeps his family business in El Paso, Tamales Lupita, and other tamale shops very busy. But rising expenses have forced them to pass on the costs to customers. Carrillo said his store charged $11 per dozen last year and now it’s at $12 per dozen.
“Everything is going up, meat, corn husks, minimum wage, everything,” he said as a line of customers filled his shop.
The increases don’t seem to be affecting demand too much.
But while a dollar a dozen may not seem like a huge jump, in the tamale-selling business where customers often order several dozen at a time, it adds up quickly. Especially for the smaller shops that appear to be the most affected by the higher prices.
Tamale makers blame the jump in corn prices on the country’s efforts to use corn for ethanol-infused fuel. Corn prices have risen about 55 percent since 2003, along with the price of petroleum products needed to ship and package it, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Ruben Leal, president of Dallas Tortilla and Tamale Factory, said he has had to raise prices by about a dollar a dozen in recent years.
Because his 57-year-old business serves thousands of handmade tamales a day—Leal wouldn’t say just how busy his shop is—he’s been able to keep prices low at just $6.50. But that may not last for long, he said.
“We’re going up to $7 next year and $7.50 in ‘09,” Leal said.