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Food supply is tied to Brazil, Argentina and Colombia

From 2005 to 2008, the value of food imports heightened 299 percent

In 2008, imports smashed a record of USD 7.57 billion (File Photo)

Venezuelans' diet should entail a daily consumption of 2,000 calories from miscellaneous food such as cereal, meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, fruits, vegetables and sugar, among others.

As a matter of fact, in Venezuela as much as 50 percent of the supply of staple food depends on the import from producing countries, namely: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay; political and economic allies with President Hugo Chávez's administration, like Nicaragua and China, and also other countries with a long track record of trade relations, such as Colombia or the United States.

Oil for food
During the oil boom, when the Venezuelan oil basket climbed from an average of USD 45 a barrel to a peak of USD 125.76 in July 2008, and USD 86.81 on average that year, Venezuela entered a spiral of gradual escalation in the value of food imports. As of 2008, food imports closed at USD 7.57 billion, a hike of 299 percent compared to 2005. This shows that, concomitantly with rising oil prices, there was more and more dependence on imports to fill the gap in the domestic industry.

Dancing samba and tango
There is growing dependence on the foreign market in terms of fundamental items such as corn, rice, sugar, milk, beef, poultry and beans. Venezuela's imports of beef went from 23 percent in 2006 to 53 percent in 2008.

During that term, while the import of beef advanced 145 percent, consumption increased only 8 percent. In this import business, major sellers include Brazil, which provided in 2008 approximately 170,000 tons of frozen meat and its equivalent in cattle (near 30 percent of the domestic total consumption). Other countries, that is, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay and Nicaragua, were bought about 145,000 tons.

Venezuela produced 2,400,000 tons of white and yellow corn in 2008. However, an accrued deficit of cereals close to 1,250,000 tons was overcome with a down-in-the-dumps sorghum output in addition to the import of almost one million tons of yellow corn for the sector of balanced food for animals. This corn was purchased from the United States and Argentina.

The domestic output of white rice in 2008 amounted to 560,000 tons. For the first time in several years, this item needed to be imported. Approximately 160,000 tons were bought from the United States and Ecuador, as reported by the industrial sector.

In 2008, Venezuela yielded near 945,000 tons of poultry, a 12-percent surge versus 845,000 tons in 2007. However, the import bill payable to Brazil and Colombia -mainly by government-sponsored markets Pdval and Mercal- accounted for 160,000 tons; or 60 percent over the import of 100,000 tons in 2007.

The Venezuelan market still depends on milk imports, which represent 50 percent of the supply in the domestic market. Ranchers reported a domestic yearly output of 1.25 billion liters, compared with 960 million liters or 140,000 tons bought, among others, from Argentina, New Zealand, Uruguay, Nicaragua and China.

Argentina sold Venezuela 63,700 tons of dairy products for USD 272.6 million in 2008, an increase of 138 percent over 26,730 tons that were bought for USD 82.5 million in 2007.

Translated by Conchita Delgado

Ernesto J. Tovar

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