Venezuela seizes rice plant from Cargill
By LeiLani Dowell
The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ordered the seizure of a rice processing plant owned by U.S agribusiness giant Cargill on March 4, after the company defied new price-control regulations on rice.
In the face of countrywide food shortages, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has instituted measures to help ensure that people get a fair price on basic food staples like white rice, sugar, milk and other products. He also imposed regulations so that food producers must devote 70 percent of their production to products that fall under the price controls.
An inspection found that Cargill’s Cristal rice plant, in the northwestern state of Portuguesa, was producing not white rice, but other varieties of rice that were not price-regulated. In addition, the inspection found that the company was circumventing the law by neglecting to print the regulated price on its rice packages.
National Guard troops also occupied a rice mill owned by Venezuela’s biggest food producer, Empresas Polar. Chávez warned the company’s owner, Lorenzo Mendoza, “If you want to take on the government, you’ll find out that this revolution is for real”—meaning the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuela’s push towards socialism. (Irish Times, March 6) Chávez has previously nationalized the country’s largest telecommunications, electricity and steel companies.