Smuggler's Blues

 We’ll go Down The Rabbit Hole in a sec but first…Insight Crime tells us that Venezuela’s agriculture and drinks industries may be on the brink of collapse , business leaders warn, as domestic producers face insurmountable competition from a flood of cheap goods smuggled over the border.

 The president of CEA (Center for Agri-Food Studies) claimed that 60% of vegetables, 45% of hard spirits, and 35% – 40% of fertilizers used in the country were imported illegally, primarily from Colombia, putting up to 3.4 million jobs at risk. Other industry experts have reported even higher numbers.

 Inflation in Venezuela (we’re approaching hyperinflation… again) has driven food prices to inaccessible levels for most people. Lower production costs in Colombia, partly thanks to subsidies, allow Colombian farmers to sell their goods at attractive prices. Those products are purchased and smuggled into Venezuela to be sold all over the country, including the capital of Caracas. As a result, farmers are being cut out. Smuggled Colombian potatoes have already cost 40,000 Venezuelans to lose their jobs, according to El Pais.

 The reopening of the Colombia-Venezuela border was expected to reduce smuggling, however, it has continued to thrive with an apparent level of tolerance among Venezuelan authorities who, in some cases, have gotten directly involved with contraband networks.

 The country’s deep economic crisis means there’s widespread demand for cheap food. For some it’s a matter of survival.

 In July,2023 the monthly food basket, enough to feed a family of five, was more than 100 times the monthly minimum wage of under $5, according to financial services outlet Porta Folio.

 Contraband food products are openly available in stores, supermarkets, and street markets, according to the Maracaibo Chamber of Commerce. Until the Maduro regime can solve it’s self-inflicted economic woes (It’s been going on since he took power in 2013) you can expect the trend to continue.

 Now, lets head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 7/ continued…

 …You can imagine what happened. 35,000 hectares out of the 3 and 1/2 million expropriated actually produced. Not exactly a testament to societal experimentation. Try getting a drug approved with a 1% success rate in clinical trials. I do have to tip my hat to the 1% that succeeded. Good on ya’! You defied the odds!

 Another victim to Chavista scapegoating was the warehousing/distribution system. They took a big hit in 2014 and never recovered. The warehousing/distribution came under fire during the “guarimba”, the protests spurred by food shortages in 2014 caused by the ludicrous price controls. Maduro had to blame somebody for the empty supermarket shelves so anyone with a warehouse was an easy target. Inspectors, backed up by the National Guard, would show up at a warehouse, seize whatever food was stored there, jail someone from management, and have it delivered to the supermarkets. “Hoarding by those greedy speculators” would not be tolerated by “The Revolution”!!

 This pretty much killed the idea of an orderly flow of food to the supermarkets. Trucks would go from a processing facility directly to the supermarkets and unload whatever product(s) they had to the waiting crowds. It was chaotic. Some locations got big deliveries while others got nothing. News of pending deliveries was leaked via social media and finding out what product was being delivered where, then going and waiting in line for it, became a full time job.

 When the Chavistas weren’t busy destroying farming, putting all the supporting companies, you know, everything from machinery parts for both the farmers and food processors to seed and fertilizer suppliers etc. out of business, and dismantling the warehousing/distribution network, they directed their efforts to fraudulent schemes supposedly to help feed the people.

 One such scheme was a 2010 project launched by Chavez with China’s CAMC Engineering Company. It was promoted as a comprehensive project including the largest rice-processing plant in Latin America and rice paddies twice the size of Manhattan. $100,000,000 was allocated and as of 2019 the project remained half-built although the money was not half-spent. At one of the buildings for the Hugo Chavez Plant they had a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Maduro’s Agricultural Minister doing the honors. The visuals on Venezuela state-run media were impressive…silos and everything! Looks can be deceiving. It turns out that inside the plant workers were packing IMPORTED RICE by hand instead of utilizing the proposed machinery capable of producing 18 tons per hour.

 More tomorrow….

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