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Home > News > Increased demand for tortillas causes buying limits in Chicago. While some donate extras, others sell online.

Increased demand for tortillas causes buying limits in Chicago. While some donate extras, others sell online.

2020-04-13
While many shoppers stocked up on toilet paper and bottles of water as the coronavirus crisis developed in the Chicago area in recent weeks, others made sure they had enough tortillas to last for a quarantine. The shelves at some Mexican grocery stores have emptied almost immediately after restocking, and long lines have developed outside some tortilla manufacturers in the Chicago area.

The demand has continued as social distancing has tightened amid the order to stay at home, but it appears to be from shoppers stocking up on an essential staple of Mexican cuisine, and not because of a drop-off in production. Area tortilla makers report they have kept up regular production, and some makers and retailers have had to limit purchases in some cases.

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After two days of searching for tortillas in various supermarkets around his neighborhood in south suburban Posen, Daniel Rodriguez last week drove for about an hour to Little Village`s El Milagro Tortilleria, 3050 W. 26th St., hoping to find some.
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Rodriguez said he was worried that otherwise [things would get worse," and like some of his friends and family, he wouldn`t be able to find tortillas, or at least enough of them, for the next few weeks.

[We are used to eating tortillas with almost every meal every day," Rodriguez said in Spanish. The construction worker from Guanajuato, Mexico, a father of two, added that tortillas are considered essential for his family and many other Mexican families in the area.
After waiting for more than an hour in line outside of El Milagro, Rodriguez was able to buy three boxes of tortillas. Each box has 40 packs of a dozen tortillas and is sold for $15.54.

, El Milagro has been imposing a limit of two to three boxes per customer, based on production and demand.

Alfredo Jimenez, a manager at Carniceria Jimenez, a Mexican grocery store in Humboldt Park, was forced to limit customers to five packs each, he said.

[It`s not about the money that we make, it`s about forcing people to rationalize," said Jimenez, the brother of the owner of the chain that extends through neighborhoods in Chicago and into the suburbs. [We can sell it all to one person and make the same amount of money, but we want to push people to think about the rest of their community who is also looking for tortillas."

Others, however, have opted to sell them on Facebook and Amazon for up to $2 a pack of a dozen tortillas, when the regular retail price ranges from 30 to 50 cents a pack at the grocery store.

Amid the pandemic, there are also countless ads of people selling hand-made tortillas.

Worse comes to worst, Rodriguez said, he will have to order some tortillas for his family. But for now, he hopes that they`ll get through the stay-at-home order by sharing a good

The demand for tortillas and masa harina (corn flour for making tortillas) has increased drastically in the last two weeks, Jimenez said, leaving shelves empty almost immediately after stocking and restocking them throughout the day. For the store he manages in Humboldt Park, he orders 140 boxes, each with 40 packs of 12 tortillas. That`s nearly 6,000 packs, for more than 67,000 tortillas, per day.

[People complain about the limit, but we tell them that we must do that to help others also get what they need during these hard times," Jimenez added.

And though he said he requested more boxes of tortillas from his carriers, which include El Milagro, Atotonilco and El Popocatepetl Tortilleria - all Chicago-based tortilla manufacturers - most weren`t able to deliver more than their usual number of boxes.
[It`s hard to keep up," said Alma Gaytan, a manager at El Popocatepetl Tortilleria, 1854 W. 21st St. [There are tortillas, we will keep producing, but the demand has definitely increased."

Gaytan added that the tortilleria she manages plans to continue to produce tortillas and deliver to the stores and restaurants they cater to. Earlier last week the tortilla manufacturer stopped selling tortillas at its manufacturing location with the intent of promoting social distancing, Gaytan said.

Over the last couple of weeks, many Chicagoans expressed frustration on social media for the lack of tortillas at large Mexican supermarkets and chain grocery stores in their area.

[Anyone else having a hard time finding El Milagro white tortillas? I`ve stopped by a couple
Jimenez suggested that the increase in demand for tortillas [shows the strong presence of our Mexican community in Chicago and other parts of Illinois." At the store he manages, getting Maseca, a brand of corn flour used to make tortillas, has also been challenging.

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