Caracas, Venezuela, August 16, 2007— Total agricultural production in Venezuela has increased in 2007, according to Venezuelan Minister of Agriculture Elias Jaua. The minister estimates that agricultural production for this year will be able to resolve the shortage problems of earlier this year. Jaua emphasized that the Chavez government's agricultural policy of record-breaking investment in the agricultural sector was responsible for the increased production.
"In 50 years there has not been an investment of this magnitude," explained Jaua yesterday at the First National Meeting of the Agricultural Communication Network. "In the last 3 years [investment] has surpassed 15 billion bolivars [US$ 7 billion] and just in 2007 it is 6 billion bolivars [US$ 2.7 billion]," he said.
Jaua estimated that total production for 2007 will finish at around 21 million tons, about 3 tons more and a 16.6 percent increase from the total production in 2006. This number, however, "is only an estimation because it is difficult to predict agricultural production exactly due to climate variables," said Jaua.
Production in key areas such as chicken, beef, and milk has also increased according to the minister, although he stated that it would be necessary to import food in these areas to meet national demand. Because of increased demand in the country for meats, the Venezuelan government authorized the importation of 50,000 tons from Brazil.
In areas such as fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains, he assured that internal demand had been met and there should be ample supply to meet national needs. He also assured that there would be enough production of corn and rice to cover the needs of the population.
"We have achieved the levels of supply that we have been increasing due to the policies of the Chavez government and without a doubt we have had some adversities, such as a very intense summer in the area of [the state of] Guarico that is going to affect the outcome of corn, but in any case we have calculated all the projections and there is going to be enough supply of flour," stated Jaua.
The supply of tomatoes could pose a problem, he said, due to the difficulty in planting them during the rainy season, and therefore their price tends to peak during the month of August. But the minister stated that in the states of Merida and Lara greenhouse production of tomatoes, onions, and peppers should guarantee supply of these vegetables during the rainy season.
Jaua emphasized the success of the National Plan for Agricultural Development set forth by the Chavez government and assured that agricultural production would see good results this year. The minister stated that the current agricultural program is something that has not been seen in Venezuela since the years of Isaias Medina Angarita, president from 1941 to 1945. He criticized the governments since that time which have carried out what he called policies "to break up the national agricultural structure" and transform the country into a food importer.
The minister also commented on the coverage that the media gives to problems such as shortages. "It's a daily attack from the major media and the spokespersons of the opposition about agriculture," he said, "which makes it a big challenge for us."
But Jaua assured good results for the future. "We are optimistic that this year we are going to have good results in terms of production in the short term. But there is also a sustained effort in terms of agricultural infrastructure, agro-industrial development, and scientific-technological development that is going to have definitive results over the long term," he concluded.