Mérida, November 30, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – State-run agricultural supply firm AgroPatria has been part-privatised, according to workers.
Documents published by investigative news portal La Tabla last Thursday, inform AgroPatria workers in the Machiques shop (west Venezuela) that the firm has been “taken over” by the AgroLlano 2910 Group, a private corporation of unknown origins. The takeover comes into effect on November 1, and, according to the leaked communiqué, forms part of a “strategic alliance” signed between the public and private firms in April.
At the time of writing, it is unclear whether AgroLlano 2910 has also acquired other lines of the state’s massive seed, equipment and fertilizer supply network, or what the consequences for the company’s workforce may be. The government has made no comment on the deal, which will last for twenty years.
AgroPatria, previously AgroIslena, was nationalised by the Chavez government in 2010 as part of efforts to regulate the agricultural supply market and boost national production.
At first, the nationalised firm returned favourable results, with a reported three-fold increase in the number of small and midsize producers benefiting from low-cost fertilisers, seeds, equipment and other products during the first few months.
More recently, however, it has faced significant criticism from campesino leaders who point to its paralysing corruption, bureaucracy and inefficient management. In 2018, communard Angel Prado told Venezuelanalysis that the firm “does not respond to the needs of small and midsize producers” anymore, with many having to purchase goods “outside of the regular channels.”
The firm’s privatisation comes on the heels of the passing of the controversial Anti-Blockade Law which looks to boost private investment in Venezuela’s economy. Apart from AgroPatria, La Tabla also alleged that state-run sugar factories Pio Tamayo (Lara State) and Rio Guanare (Portuguesa State) have been transferred to private hands in recent months, as well Caracas’ Waraira Repano tourist cable car. It also claimed that the state-run dairy giant Lacteos Los Andes is under threat of privatisation.
The latest moves follow a recent trend which has seen privatisation or increased private sector participation in state-run companies including agricultural firm Pedro Camejo, Bicentenario Supermarket chain and the fuel industry, with authorities releasing import permits for privately-run fuel stations in June.
This trend was reinforced on Sunday, with President Nicolas Maduro calling for “powerful union with private firms” in the state-run Ezequiel Zamora Central Rail Network.
The construction of the 13,665 kilometre railway network began in 2002 but was paralysed ten years later. The first stage, which links Caracas with the small commuter towns Charallave and Cua, was inaugurated in 2006, but much of the half-built infrastructure of the more important routes was abandoned. In 2010, it was estimated that the finished project would end up transporting 240 million Venezuelans per year and have a significant impact on the economy.
It is unclear which private firms are set to join the project and in what capacity, but Maduro suggested that the key Caracas-Maracay-Valencia-Puerto Cabello line could be operational as early as 2021.
On Sunday, the government did, however, announce advances in a number of state-run industrial projects which do not include private investment.
At the Transformer Repair Factory in Miranda State, authorities claim to have increased capacity to 1,500 electrical transformers a year, providing a possible boost to the country’s fragile electrical grid.
Equally, two cereal processing plants were inaugurated in Cojedes State last Wednesday. According to government figures, the plants have a combined silo capacity of 10,000 tonnes and a daily productive capacity of 36 tonnes of wheat bran, 38 tonnes of corn bran and 45 tonnes of rice flour.
As elections draw near, the president also hinted that further public works or social benefits will be awarded as “special prizes”to the 100 communities with highest participation in the next Sunday’s vote.