San Francisco, April 22, 2016 – Polar, Venezuela’s largest private food and beverage provider, released a statement on Thursday that it will stop beer production, citing its inability to import raw materials. The company alleged the Venezuelan government has not issued sufficient US currency to purchase equipment and raw goods necessary to continue its production past this April.
"Since last year, we've warned the nation of the serious situation we face, and we have run out of debt options with our international providers," the company expressed in a statement.
“Our current situation is this: We have not been able to replenish the inventory, and we only have malted barley to produce until April 29. Under those circumstances, we are obliged to suspend the production of beer and malts until we get access to the currency needed to procure the raw materials,” Polar’s statement continued.
Polar produces approximately 80 percent of beer consumed in Venezuela; however, due to rising beer prices, many artisanally crafted and traditional alcohols have become increasingly popular across the country.
The company’s decision to cease production is said to impact approximately 10,000 workers. However, Venezuela's Organic Law of Work and Workers (LOTTT) prohibits mass firings. Just last June, workers denounced Polar for intimidation, suppression of unions and low wages after years of similar conflicts.
While a complete halt to production would be a significant blow to workers; on other occasions, factory workers have taken over company plants following unexpected closures. Such was the case of the Clorox factory in Los Valles del Tuy, Miranda on the outskirts of Caracas in 2014.
In recent years, the Venezuelan government as well as grassroots have denounced the hoarding of raw materials and alleged shortages are tactics used by private companies to instigate destabilization and the economic war. Polar along with other corporations have been among those accused of such actions.
Polar is also well-known for its cornmeal flour product Harina Pan, used to make the national dish “arepas” which is now a rare sight on supermarket shelves and often sold at speculated prices.
The government and Venezuelan grassroots have also denounced Polar’s owner, Lorenzo Mendoza of hoarding, misappropriating state-subsidized dollars as well as conspiration against the government. Mendoza has denied these allegations.
In February, protestors in Catia on the west side of Caracas known for its working class roots also took-over Polar distribution trucks to demand that the company stop hoarding basic food and goods.