Beginning on Friday 1 November and running to 15 December, state run Christmas fairs will be opened to the public in every regional state, where toys and other seasonal goods will be sold to citizens at “fair prices”. Meanwhile, mobile fairs will travel around all municipalities to make sure that Venezuelans living in more far flung areas also benefit from the program.
In an interview with state channel VTV on Tuesday, Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming said that the Christmas fairs would help the population avoid overpricing and speculation during the Christmas season. “Our prices respond to a cost structure…it’s possible for a speculator to sell the same toys with [overpricing of] 300 or 400%,” he said.
The minister also mentioned that this year the government hopes that the Christmas fairs will serve around 17% of the population, distributing 1.5 million toys. This is a large expansion on the government’s fairs last year, which served 4% of the population, distributing toys to 200,000 children.
In addition to toys imported from other countries, around 1,700 national producers of toys, jewelry, clothing, shoes and artisanal products will participate in the fairs.
State run food distribution companies Mercal and Pdval will also sell affordably-priced food items used to make popular Christmas dishes such as roast pork and bread stuffed with ham and olives.
The fairs are a key part of the government’s strategy to ensure that all items associated with the Christmas season are in plentiful supply this December.
Authorities are in the process of importing 400,000 tons of food from neighboring countries ahead of the vacations, while over US $46 million have been granted to the private sector for the importation of toys.
“There are already 35 million toys in the country, plus those which are yet to arrive. It’s possible that in Venezuela we’ll have close to 50 million toys [for distribution and sale],” said Fleming.
According to the 2011 census, there are 7.35 million people in Venezuela aged between 0 and 14 years of age, around 27% of the population.
Officials consider efforts to ensure the adequate supply of Christmas goods as part of the struggle against the “economic war” the government says is being waged against it by wealthy allies of the conservative opposition.
With the country experiencing shortages in certain foodstuffs and the dollar worth seven times the official rate on the black market, authorities have accused the opposition of seeking to destabilize the economy and create discontent through hoarding, deviation of supply chains, and price speculation.
Throughout the Christmas season state consumer agency inspectors will increase visits to commercial establishments to ensure compliance with price controls and that retailers are not taking advantage of increased demand to engage in price speculation.
“We’re not going to allow our people to be exploited, not just in the area of toys, but in all sectors which sell goods that the population traditionally consumes in the December season,” said Commerce Minister Fleming.
Fines for price speculation could range between US $40,000 and $200,000, the minister added.
As a result of the implementation of these strategies officials have stated that despite the “economic war” they are confident that Venezuelans will enjoy a “happy Christmas”.