El Maizal Commune expropriated local installations of the state-run grannational pig farming project “Porcinos del ALBA” in July 2017. According to information offered by commune spokespersons, at the time they found a mere 300 underfed livestock there, well below the facility’s capacity, pointing the finger at poor public administration.
Oswaldo Perez and Victor Mujica, who are responsible for pig breeding for the two-year-old communal administration, report that the newly-named El Maizal Pig Farm currently has 579 piglets, 285 sows reproducing 12-18 piglets every four months, as well as 1,250 adult male pigs. Every month, the project sells over 13,000 kilos of pork directly to the community or through the [Local Supply and Production Committees] CLAP scheme.
On July 7, El Maizal spokesperson Angel Prado publicly denounced government pig feed pricing policies, claiming they are influenced by large agro-industrial lobbyists at the expense of small producers.
According to farm workers, the communal administration is looking to bypass these problems by experimenting with corn- and rice-based feed, but have concluded that these increase the risk of abortion and slow the fattening up process from four to six months. They are also looking to set up a feed-producing plant in alliance with other communes.
The same day this article was published, President Nicolas Maduro announced the National Pig Farming Plan, pledging to support 8,031 small and midsize pig farms with “infrastructure, financing, equipment and technicians.” He also launched the Zoosanitario Plan which looks to guarantee vaccination against rabies and foot and mouth disease for 900,000 pig and cow livestock.
Pork consumption in Venezuela has been on the up since 2016, experts say, when the country had a per capita consumption of 4.17 kg. This rose to over 7 kg in 2017, and has allegedly continued to increase since.
El Maizal Commune, located between Lara and Portuguesa States, has been increasing levels of pig farming for some years. This industry was in the hands of criminal bosses for many years, who almost drove it to bankruptcy.
In the context of the Constituent [Assembly electoral] campaign [of July 2017], [El Maizal Commune] undertook a tour of the territory of Simón Planas [municipality where the Commune is mostly located] and through work groups, assemblies, rallies, discussions, strategic alliances between industry workers and the Commune were established to recover several productive units, including the Porcinos del ALBA farm, which was practically run into the ground at the time.
Since, with a lot of sacrifice we have been able to increase production there. Through good administration, we have also managed to share the good [breed] genetics with other communes that want to breed these species and which do not want to wait for the President of the Republic to be the sole person responsible for assisting the controversial issue of pork farming.
We have been trying to survive the hard and continuous impact of inflation every day, and we have tried to acquire the balanced animal feed for pigs from state-owned company Agrobueyca. However, starting a few months ago, they began tripling their prices (1), making it impossible for us to buy and leaving us in a situation of near productive stoppage.
Why has this occurred? When, after the permanent insistence of many small and midsize producers, this company awarded animal feed quotas for hen, chicken and pig farmers, among other animals, it was possible to increase domestic production and obviously the prices in butcher shops remained relatively stable. However, it turns out that the big [Venezuelan farming] conglomerates such as the Souto Group, Puro Lomo, the Ebenezer Group and El Tunal, among others, saw a great danger in small and midsize producers somehow flooding the market with production and affecting their bigtime industrial brands.
That is why they drove up the price of animal feed while the price of pig livestock was frozen. Nonetheless, the prices of [pork] derivatives, including sausages, were not frozen. The result was that small and midsize producers once again went bankrupt while the industrial brands, which are the minority but have a lot of economic power, ended up dominating both the industry and prices under the protection of important sectors of the national government.
These large companies have access to state-distributed foreign currency, to the direct import of supplies, control over raw materials. They sell their products expensively, they have strategic alliances with the government and they draw up the policies which suffocate small and midsize producers.
It is due to them that we want to publicly denounce the abuses of the state-owned company Agrobueyca, which doubles the prices of balanced animal feed, something fundamental to boost national production, on a weekly basis. Rather, it is the firm’s duty to support anyone who can help in this task [of increasing national production] and not to be a tool for the imposition of monopolies in the hands of large industrialists.
Thus, in a very effective and efficient way [this firm] contributes to the annihilation of the good and small productive experiences that still survive this economic crisis.
Agrobueyca has always flown under the radar in complaints made against other public companies forming part of [state-led agricultural mission] AgroVenezuela, such as [nationalized agricultural seed and fertilizer company] Agropatria and [state-owned chemicals company] Pequiven, but now we have to raise our voice against these problems. It is key for our people to have animal protein on their table at a fair price.
It is clear to us that the best way forward for the country is not that of the mistakenly-named revolutionary bourgeoisie, which wants public capital in the hands of the ruling upper class, and this is something in which the government must be clear on. This kind of internal complicity continues to create the conditions which will end any possibility of advancing in all of the people’s efforts [to increase] national production, and we have to close ranks to defend ourselves against this neoliberal advance.
(1) El Maizal members claim that a 30,000 kg truck of animal feed which lasts them 9 days cost 13 million Sovereign Bolivares in March and has increased to 45 million in June.
Angel Prado is a spokesperson for El Maizal Commune and member of the National Constituent Assembly.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.
Translated and introduction by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.com.