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Venezuela Will Not be Affected by Food Crisis Says Chavez

April 28, 2008 ( Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez assured that Venezuela will not be affected by the world food crisis on his weekly talk show Aló Presidente on Sunday. Speaking from the coastal fishing village of Chuao, the Venezuelan president discussed the current food crisis and explained his government’s agricultural polices that have increased Venezuelan food production.

“This year we have dedicated almost every show to this topic,” he said. “There is a food crisis in the world, but Venezuela is not going to fall into that crisis. You can be sure of that. Actually, we are going to help other nations who are facing this crisis.”

The Chavez government has made the claim that the solution to the food crisis is for countries to produce more food for domestic needs, and Chavez has emphasized the need to make Venezuela totally self-sufficient in its food supply.

The Chavez government has reported that Venezuelan food production has steadily increased in recent years, and President Chavez explained the policies that are responsible for the increases, including agricultural subsidies, credits, and technological assistance.

Much of the financing comes from funds like the Socialist Agrarian Fund (FAS), a fund managed by the Ministry of Agriculture to give support to small producers. The president of the fund, Ricardo Sanchez, reported on Sunday that financing from this fund has been given to more than 1,600 small and medium-sized producers and 82 communal projects around the country.

Sanchez said that they plan to give out more than BsF. 1.3 billion (US$ 600 million) from the Socialist Agrarian Fund this year to help finance the planting of an additional 400,000 hectares (990,000 acres).

With the same goal of increasing domestic food supply, President Chavez also reiterated the prohibition of the commercial fishing method of trawling, made illegal in the new Law of Fishing and Agriculture passed by the National Assembly in March.

“Trawling is prohibited. It will not be permitted anymore in Venezuela. The law is right there, so let’s follow the law,” said Chavez.

Chavez made the comments upon conversing with some small fisherman in the coastal village of Chuao in the central state of Aragua. The president explained that the commercial fishing methods are hurting the ecosystem of the ocean and endangering marine life.

“With their bottom trawling they have been ruining the ocean floor,” he said.

Chavez also explained that the fish caught by commercial fishing are usually taken to other countries and are not used to supply the domestic demand, and he claimed that the commercial fishing companies do not pay taxes in Venezuela.

Restrictions were placed on trawling with the Enabling Law in 2001, forcing the commercial fishing companies to only use the method in deeper waters, thus benefiting local fisherman. Now, however, the Chavez government has decided to ban the method altogether.

“We have approved the law prohibiting trawling because we decided that what we had done was not enough,” he said.

The new law gives commercial fishing companies a period of 12 months to convert over to other fishing methods. Chavez assured them that the government would aid them in making the transition.

“We will help them convert over to traditional fishing methods,” he said.

Chavez also discussed the increased production of cocoa with local residents of the village. The locals reported that cocoa production had increased dramatically in recent years, increasing from 5,000 kilograms in 2005 to 20,000 kilograms in 2007.

“The production quadrupled, a growth of 300 percent, and that’s going to continue to go up,” said Chavez.

But the Venezuelan president went on to explain that increasing production was only one part of the solution. In addition, he explained, they would also need to change the productive model, which still suffers from a colonial structure.

About 60 percent of the cocoa produced in the country is exported in seed form without any kind of processing. It is later processed into chocolate and other products in Europe and other parts of the developed world. Chavez explained that this structure ends up benefiting the developed countries more than Venezuela.

“They take it to Europe and they convert it into delicacies; chocolates, cakes, drinks, and they sell it for 3 to 5 times more expensive, and the capitalists fill themselves up with wealth,” he said.

“We are still a colony! They are getting rich there, and look at the worker here, living in poverty!” he said.

Chavez explained that a project is in motion to establish a plant in Aragua to process the cocoa into chocolate products. A similar project was inaugurated in Barlovento in 2006.

Published on Apr 28th 2008 at 10.07pm