Venezuela seizes food distribution center

by World Grain Staff
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CARACAS, VENEZUELA — Venezuelan soldiers on July 30 seized a food distribution center rented by companies including Nestle SA, PepsiCo. Inc and Empresas Polar SA in Caracas, Venezuela as the government looks to boost support ahead of elections, according to Bloomberg Business News.

The companies were given two months to remove equipment and stock at the La Yaguara industrial park, which will be converted to social housing, workers said. Several dozen workers of Polar, the largest Venezuelan food company, remain on the premises in protest against the expropriation.

Cargill is one of the companies that uses the La Yaguara industrial park. Cargill has more than 1,800 employees spread among 17 locations across Venezuela.

In Venezuela, Cargill is a supplier of the main products of flour, pasta, oil, vegetable shortening, and salt, as well as one of the most important players in the animal food industry.
Cargill didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from Bloomberg.

President Nicolas Maduro in recent months has stepped up attacks on the private sector, which he accuses of profiteering and sabotage, as his popularity wanes ahead of the Dec. 6 congressional elections. He has blamed Polar and other private food companies for the chronic shortages of basic products and spiraling inflation, while maintaining currency and price controls that have made most of national production unprofitable.

The government had first notified the landlord of plans to expropriate the industrial park in 2013, Nestle spokesman Andres Alegrett said by telephone from Caracas on July 30. Nestle used the facility to dispatch about 10% of its products in the country, supplying sweets and drinks to the western side of Greater Caracas, he said.

“We are working to redirect the products to other facilities across the country,” Alegrett said.

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