Popularity of State-Run Food Markets on the Rise

One of Venezuela’s state-run food supply networks saw an increase of 70% in its sales last month, according to Commerce Minister Richard Canan.

A state-run Abastos Bicentenario market (Prensa Presidencial)

Appearing on the television program “Desperto Venezuela,” Canan reported a record income for the Bicentennial Markets, which took in a total of 260 million Bolivars ($56.5 million USD) in the month of July.

According to the Minister, 2.1 million people visited the markets last month, an increase of 35%.

The Bicentennial food markets are the result of the government’s nationalization of two private supermarket chains, Exito and Cada.

Food Sovereignty

The now state-run markets form part of the Venezuelan government’s food sovereignty strategy intended to secure a steady supply of basic food items for the nation’s population at affordable prices.

In conjunction with other initiatives such as the social programs Mission Mercal, PDVAL, and CVAL, the Bicentennial Markets protect consumers from inflated prices and contrived shortages, problems that have plagued the private sector over the years.

According to Canan, “Venezuela is no longer subject to the monopoly of private businesses.”

“We guarantee the distribution and existence of all basic food products”, the Minister affirmed. “We have a center which permanently oversees the distribution of products coming from the state sector and the private sector alike.”

In total, government run food outlets now number more than 19,000 throughout the country, distributing some 8 thousand tons of food daily and employing 37 thousand workers.

The Bicentennail Markets now number 41, thirty-five of which are small distribution points and six of which are large supermarket-sized stores.

An additional supermarket branch is currently under construction in the Plaza Venezuela district of Caracas.

Affordable Prices

The lower prices of the Bicentennialmarkets are perhaps their greatest advantage for consumers.As Canan observed, the savings for residents can be considerable.

“The average [savings] for the basic food bundle is around 30%. There are some products, for example cheese and meat, which reach a savings of 50 to 60% comparedwith capitalist markets.”

Many of the products now being sold in the food chains come from government owned processing plants.

Canan commented that the state-run Venezuelan Agrarian Corporation (CVA) has produced 110 thousand tons of food through its more than one hundred agro-industrial plants around the country.

More than four million products originating from public plants have been commercialized by the government’s food supply network.

According to the Commerce Minister, in addition to increasing food production for the nation, the plants are also creating better working conditions for employees.

“The policies being implemented by the Venezuelan Government are to defend people from exploitation by the oligarchy,” Canan said. “We have initiated a process of dignification of the working masses. We have put in place worker councils in each one of the factories.”

A process of democratization and community involvement has also taken place at the point of sale.

Community councils – grassroots neighborhood organizations – are currently operating 34 of the bodegas that belong to the Bicentennial Market network, Canan reported.

This includes the carrying out of a planning process to evaluate the specific needs of the community and then fulfill those needs through the organized distribution of required food items.

Canan also announced that this year, the Bicentennial Markets are offering more than just food products.

Between August 18th and September 5th, a “Back to School” sale will take place where customers will have the opportunity to purchase scholastic items such as uniforms, backpacks, and notebooks.

Also on sale are new computers assembled by the national company, Venezuelan Technological Industry (VIT).

The computers feature a 160 GB Hard drive, 1 GB Ram, and an Intel processor.

In addition to the availability of computers, Canan mentioned the government’s efforts to establish a supply network for domestic appliances that will be arriving from China later this month.

The appliances are the result of an agreement signed between the Venezuelan government and China and will include washing machines, dryers, and stoves.