Venezuela’s Agricultural Production Advances

Over the past eleven years, Venezuela has seen an increase of 48% in agricultural lands under cultivation, the Minister for Land and Agriculture, Juan Carlos Loyo, reported last week.

Minister for Agriculture and Lands Juan Carlos Loyo (RNV)

According to official statistics released by the Ministry, the number of hectares now being planted has reached nearly 2.4 million (5.9 million acres), up from 1.6 million (3.9 million acres) in 1998.

Crops such as corn, rice, soybean, and coffee have also seen important production increases during the presidency of Hugo Chavez.

Community-Based Farming

Loyo made the announcements during an inspection of the Socialist Production Unit Indio Rangel in the state of Aragua, where 235 hectares of under-utilized land have been turned over to small farmers working collectively.

The land that is now being worked by 80 small-scale farmers was previously under the domain of a private sugar cane hacienda, which according to the Venezuelan News Agency, had been abandoned for 6 years.

Last year the hacienda land was handed over to the farmers, organized in nine community councils, and has been converted into a productive farm where staple crops such as corn and other vegetables are being planted.

Loyo made a similar inspection last Friday in the state of Carabobo as part of a government follow-up plan being implemented in all the agricultural lands that have been redistributed in Venezuela’s Central Region since the passage of Presidential Decree 5,378.

The decree established the preservation of 53,000 hectares of high quality farmlands in the Lake Valencia basin, close to the capital Caracas. “These are lands recovered by the Bolivarian Revolution,” Loyo said during the inspection of the Monte Sacro farm in Carabobo. “In this latifundio, a project is being developed… We came to inspect close to 170 hectares of white corn in very good condition”, he stated.

According to the Land and AgricultureMinistry statistics, the production of white corn in Venezuelahas increased by 132% in the past eleven years.

Arepas, the single most importantstaple food in the Venezuelan diet, are made with the flour derivedfrom white corn.

Loyo said that winter cycle of 2010 would see an estimated production of 1.5 million tons of the crop, an increaseof 3.5% from last year.

Production Increase

Soybean production, accordingto the ministry, has grown by 858% to 54,420 tons over the past decade.

Rice production has risen by 84%, reaching nearly 1.3 million tons yearly while milk productionhas risen to 2.18 million tons, a 47% increase.

Coffee has also seen an increase of 12% since 1998.

Loyo attributes these advances to Venezuela’s Land Law, which serves to “strengthen national production in the countryside.”

The Land and Agricultural Development Law, originally passed by presidential decree in 2001, implemented Venezuela’s new agrarian reform, creating the legal basis for the government to redistribute fallow and under-utilized farmlands to landless campesinos.

Before the government of Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela, World Bank statistics had placed Venezuela as the country with the second worst land inequality in Latin America.

A government agricultural census revealed that in 1998, 5% of the Venezuelan population owned 70% of the land.

Over the past 6 years, more than 2.5 million hectares of land have been distributed to some 250,000 campesino families, according to government sources.

Food Sovereignty

An important part of the currentagrarian reform lies in the premise of lowering the nation’s dependence on food imports and creating food sovereignty.

Historically, Venezuela’s dependenceon oil exports has created an underdeveloped agricultural sector,resulting in the importation of the vast majority of food products.

According to Loyo, the strides being made in agricultural productionhave been significant, but more are needed.

“The advances have been quantitativein agricultural terms, but it’s unquestionable that there is still much ground to cover and it’s for that reason that our work will continue…in all of our nationalterritory, we will continue with special efforts to regularizeland, rehabilitate agricultural routes, and ensure grant credits to our producers.”