Mérida, October 21st 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelans consume 2,790 calories daily, slightly more than the 2,700 calories that the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UN suggests is the daily requirement, according to National Nutrition Institute (INN) Director Marilyn Di Luca.
Malnutrition has diminished from 21% eleven years ago to 6% currently, owing to the government’s agriculture and food distribution policies, Di Luca said.
She said Venezuela ranks fifth in Latin America for lowest nutritional deficiency amongst children, with Cuba, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina ranking higher.
Di Luca said the achievements in nutrition are thanks to social planning. “Currently a plan of harvesting and storage is being carried out... as well, the Ministry of Education’s Bolivarian curriculum is teaching the children to eat the food that is produced here and that links us to our origins. Further, the folks in the Culture Mission [a social program] are in the street linking food and nutrition to socialist values.”
“Also, the government has developed a structural platform with the Venezuelan Agrarian Corporation (CVA) that has a gigantic system of 59 food processing plants,” said Venezuela’s vice minister of food policy, Rafael Coronado.
Government financing of producers has increased from BsF 268 million bolivars in 1998 to BsF 20 billion (US$ 9.3 billion) this year, and harvested areas have increased from 1.6 million hectares in 1998 to 2.3 million hectares (5.7 million acres) this year, according to Vice Minister for Agrarian Economy Richard Canan.
Canan argued that the government has changed its attitude toward production. Where previous governments thought it was cheaper to import food, the current government, through technology transfer, international agreements, and financing, is promoting more local production.
To improve food distribution and control food prices, the state-run company PDVAL (Venezuelan Producer and Distributor of Food) sells food at government-regulated prices and supplies thousands of public cafeterias that provide free meals to the most needy.
Since their founding in 2003, the state-run MERCAL markets sell food at subsidized prices to nearly every community nation-wide, sometimes as much as 40% cheaper than the regulated prices.
In addition to the permanent MERCAL markets, the government and local communal councils organise temporary MERCAL food distribution points in central and remote places across the country. Last Saturday, MERCAL had 3,116 tonnes of food for sale at 779 such distribution points.
The FAO representative in Venezuela, Francisco Arias, said Venezuela has closely followed FAO recommendations. “Strengthening the networks like MERCAL, PDVAL and the public cafeterias, but also promoting local food production, is precisely the strategy that FAO has promoted to deal with food insecurity,” he said.