Mérida, 25th October 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has announced a plan for the “massive” importation of food over the next two months to combat food shortages in the run up to Christmas.
Under the plan a total of 400,000 tons of food shipments will arrive from other Latin American countries, with 80,000 tons coming from Venezuela’s neighbour Brazil.
“To solve two problems that are affecting us greatly, which is the issue of shortages [and a related] strong inflationary pressure, we’re proposing an offensive, a massive importation of food, and the stimulation of key production sectors to defeat this [economic] war they’re trying to wage against us,” said Vice President for the Economic Area, Rafael Ramirez, as he announced the plan to media on Wednesday.
This year Venezuelans have experienced an increase in shortages of several basic foodstuffs and personal items such as milk, corn flour, cooking oil and toilet paper. According to the Venezuelan Central Bank’s (BCV) scarcity index, shortage levels are currently 21.2%, having oscillated at around 20% since January.
The scarcity index measures the rate at which retailers aren’t stocking certain basic items; however the indicator does not signify that a given percentage of goods are not available in the economy. Authorities consider scarcity index levels of below 14% “normal”.
The increased level of shortages is a contributing factor to rising prices, with the annual inflation rate recorded at 49.4% in September. As of November, the minimum wage will have risen 45% this year.
Officials argue that current economic problems are the result of an “economic war” being waged against the government by wealthy allies of the conservative opposition, who they say are seeking to attack the country’s currency and cause discontent in the population by disrupting food supply.
“The president [Nicolas Maduro] instructed [the purchase of] more food because that’s where they [the opposition] are playing dirty with the whole country. They’re deviating the food supply, they take it as contraband or they hoard it,” said Rafael Ramirez while explaining the motives behind the food import plan on Wednesday.
Meanwhile critics and the political opposition blame “government mismanagement” for the economic situation, arguing that interventionist policies such as currency and price controls have negatively impacted imports and food production.
“All [current economic problems] are the result of the administrative management of an inefficient, ignorant, and highly ideologically-driven government,” declared the coordinator of the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition’s food and agriculture commission in a press release today.
Since President Maduro’s election in April the government has implemented a range of measures to attempt to reduce shortage levels, such as increasing food imports, cracking downs on hoarding and contraband networks, and stimulating greater domestic food production.
Three hundred and twenty Venezuelan technicians trained by the United Nations World Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are currently working to increase the number of urban agricultural plots in the country, which the government wants to raise from 24,000 to 80,000 over the next year.
According to statements made by the Minister of Agriculture last month, Venezuela imports 50% of food consumed.