Chavez continues push to increase food production

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
continued to focus on the nation's agricultural production detailing the government policies that
are resulting in higher national food production, during his Sunday TV
and radio program Aló Presidente
yesterday.

By Chris Carlson

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez broadcasting his weekly talk show from the southern state of Apure on Sunday. (Prensa Miraflores)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez broadcasting his weekly talk show from the southern state of Apure on Sunday. (Prensa Miraflores)
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Monday, February 25, 2008 - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
continued to focus on the nation's agricultural production during his Sunday TV
and radio program Aló Presidente
yesterday. Broadcasting from the southern state of Apure, the president visited
a new "socialist" agricultural unit, and detailed the government policies that
are resulting in higher national food production.

"We are committed to food production, and the fight against
land concentration is fundamental," said Chavez, who has continued to give
extra attention to maximizing food production in recent months.

The president held the show at a new "Socialist" Productive Unit built upon land in rural Apure that was expropriated by the government
last year in the fight against large concentrated estates.

Chavez pointed to the accomplishments of the new productive
unit where before "only 5 percent of the land was being used." Now, he
insisted, more than 40 thousands hectares (99 thousand acres) have been
reactivated with the construction of the necessary infrastructure, roads, and
housing to allow for agricultural production.

"Now, with only a few months of hard work, we have made
progress in the utilization of this area," he said. "For the first time there
are pastures and grass."

Agricultural Minister Elias Jaua, who accompanied the
president on the show, reported that around 1 million hectares (2.4 million
acres) have been recovered from large landowners in Apure.

Due to limited returns, many of the large estate-holders do
not invest in the production of the land, leaving it idle or underutilized.
Chavez criticized this situation, blaming it on capitalist agriculture.

"There are 47 thousands hectares (116 thousand acres) of
plains here and they were barely using 5 percent of it, if even that," he said.

"There were never any plans, or investment, just what
capitalism calls getting the maximum benefit: minimum investment and maximum
profit."

Chavez explained that the owners of the land had never
invested in fertilizers, tractors, modern machinery or technology, and
emphasized that the Socialist Productive Unit now has irrigation systems,
tractors, and other necessary infrastructure. He also criticized the low number
of cattle grazing the land, and vowed to increase it substantially.

"Before, there were only 7 thousand head of cattle on 47
thousands hectares (116 thousand acres). In other words, not even 0.5 head per
hectare, practically nothing," he said.

The president vowed to continue to fight against large
unproductive estates, and assured that the government would continue to
expropriate unproductive land and turn them into Socialist Productive Units,
with technology and investment from the national government.

Chavez also emphasized other government policies that are
helping increase the nation's production, including massive agricultural
subsidies, cheap credit for farmers, and improved infrastructure

"Here we are demonstrating how socialism and integrated work
between the government and producers can produce miracles," he said. "We are
raising production with our own resolve."

Chavez announced that the government will invest a total of
BsF. 2.8 billion (US$ 1.3 billion) in agricultural financing in 2008, and
reminded viewers that before his presidency government financing for
agriculture was "practically nothing."

The Agricultural Bank of Venezuela recently gave more than
BsF. 91 million (US$ 42 million), to agricultural producers in the Apure region
for the purchase of new animals for the production of beef and milk.

The credits form part of the National Cattle Plan, which
plans to increase production to meet Venezuela's domestic needs for beef and
milk by the year 2012. Under this plan, the country will import thousands of
animals from Brazil and Colombia in order to improve and increase the national
herd.

President Chavez also announced increased investment in the
local road system in the state of Apure. According to the president, the
government approved BsF. 88 million (US$ 41 million) from the National Development
Fund (Fonden) for the improvement of roads in Apure.

The government's agricultural policies have begun to show
results in recent years. As Chavez pointed out on the show, milk production for
last year was around 1.7 billion liters, up 20 percent from 2005, when
production was around 1.3 billion liters.

Meat production has also increased by almost 20 percent in
recent years but the government hopes to increase it much more. The National Cattle Plan calls for milk and
beef production to be nearly doubled by the year 2012.

Agricultural Minister Elias Jaua commented that even though
production has risen, it is still falling short of total demand given the large
increase in consumption in recent years.

"Obviously, with a revolution that is raising the demand, we
are still coming up short for the moment," he said.

But Chavez assured that the government would continue to do
everything possible to increase national production to meet domestic
consumption.

"As long as the Bolivarian Revolution is here, this
government will guarantee that the Venezuelan people eat better every day," he
said.

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