[Translator's note: the mesas económicas refer to talks between the government and private sector to address recent business concerns, such as the foreign currency exchange system and price control regime.]
Union heads Carlos Narváez, Roger Palacios, Ángel Mago, Arnaldo Gil, Julio Márquez and Carlos Ortega from the companies La Gaviota, Alimentos Margarita, Atún Paraguana, C.A.I.P., Corporación 3C and Eveba respectively, indicated that incorporation into the mesas económicas is necessary to address the situation in the sector; which employs over 10,000 workers and provides an estimated 80 % of the canned tuna and sardines consumed in the country.
The [union] leaders called on President Nicolas Maduro to take them into account in talks, which were installed last week by the national government, [and are] about the economic crisis and its solutions. Until now only companies and their [business] chambers have participated.
In regards to what is happening in the sector, they commented that some bosses have lowered production of canned tuna, citing problems with the foreign currency situation. The union leaders estimated that this explanation is false, considering that the tuna fleets are Venezuelan and are the companies' holdings in some cases. They believe this is a ploy to lower production to provoke scarcity, increase prices and [create] labour problems.
They added that regarding the production of sardines – the production of which has been regulated the same as fresh fish products since 2009 – these [canned sardines] should have an honest price. [Businesses] claim that this price distortion causes companies like La Gaviota to not even be able to pay less than a third of their operating expenses; and it is difficult for them to get raw materials, as fishers prefer to sell the same product to unofficial wholesalers that pay four to five times more than what the companies are authorised [by the government] to settle for.
They believe that if their labour organisations were taken into account, there wouldn't be shortages of imported products that are sold by the Mercal and Pdval networks, which in their view actually ends up negatively impacting the economy by weakening the national productive apparatus.
Translated for Venezuelanalysis by Ryan Mallett-Outtrim