28 October 2016 - 08:03 PM
Economic War on Venezuela: Key Food Maker Cuts Production
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The shortages of food and certain essential items is a source of frustration for many Venezuelans and President Nicolas Maduro's opponents say he is trying to deflect responsibility when he says his government is subject to an economic war, but newly revealed evidence shows that one of the major food producers in the country recently reduced its production by 30 percent.

A distraught woman holds up a bag of Pan cornflour, a staple of the Venezuelan diet made by the Polar Company, Caracas, Venezuela, June 11, 2016.

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The Polar Company is well known inside Venezuela, they are the producers of the cornflour used to make the arepa, a Venezuelan staple. Shortages of this cornflour have in some ways become a symbol of the economic challenges facing the country.

However, an investigation by La Tabla of the company's own reports reveals that the volume of production of nine key products dropped from 33.5 million kilos over a two-week time span (July 25 to August 7) to 23 million kilos in a similar time span in September (5 to 18).

The drop in production wasn't gradual either. From August 8 to 22, production fell by 7 million kilos. The figures are drawn from the company's own reports published on its website.

Cornflour alone dropped from 24 million kilos in one August fortnight to only 17 million kilos during a fortnight in September. La Tabla also noted that some items, such as rice, had an erratic production schedule. For example, between August 22 to Sept. 4, no rice goods were produced at all.

Representatives from the Polar Company have previously said that the reason they have struggled to produce is because they do not have access to raw materials.

Venezuela, like many other oil-exporting countries, imports many products, including food, as the dominance of the oil industry has a tendency to make it more economically advantageous to buy cheaper products from abroad.

However, this functions best when oil prices are high and dollars are widely available to purchase goods on the international market. The dramatic drop in the price of oil led the country to maintain currency controls, meaning producers must request dollars from the government to be able to purchase raw materials.

The government provides a subsidized exchange rate for essential items, like food, and officials maintain they have provided billions to producers so they can purchase the raw materials they require.

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Instead, the government says firms, like the Polar Company, are deliberately reducing production in order to cause harm to the government's image and cause discontent among the population.

The head of the Polar Company, Lorenzo Mendoza, has claimed he is not with the country's political opposition but he was seen attending the opposition demonstration Wednesday.

His participation in the opposition demonstration is seen as a provocative move, as Mendoza has previously been supportive of dialogue between the government and the opposition and has himself met face-to-face with President Maduro.

The Polar Company has been previously threatened with expropriation after the late President Hugo Chavez accused the company's executives of stockpiling food and price speculation.

Grassroots supporters of the Venezuelan government have long called for Polar, which controls a considerable segment of food and beverage industry in the country, to be nationalized.

Earlier this week President Maduro indicated that he was prepared to take more dramatic steps to counter the “economic war,” calling for a new round of nationalizations of companies engaged in economic sabotage.

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