Venezuela’s Crisis Is No Small Potatoes


HAVANA TIMES — Back when potatoes were cheap thanks to good harvests and we had these with every meal, people in Cuba used to jokingly say that “potatoes are life savers.” I’ve already been informed that potatoes haven’t exactly been abundant on the island in recent times.

Here in Venezuela, like everything else you buy, potatoes are increasingly beyond hand’s (or pocket’s) reach.

The last time I went to a market, a kilo was being sold at 600 bolivars***. You may find it for less – or more – at other markets.

A few months ago I visited the state of Trujillo, the towns of Tuñame and Jajo, to be more precise.

There, I noticed potato harvests have diminished considerably. The reason? The government only delivered half of the seeds that farmers needed. Another reason is the high price of fertilizers. Many farmers have opted to grow strawberries, which prove more profitable. Lastly, we have another, more than publicized issue: criminals have taken control of the state of Trujillo.

What this means is that those who work the land, grow crops and transport the produce are threatened into paying fixed quotas to armed men, so that these will protect them from other armed men, or quite simply allow them to travel down the road safely.

Given this situation, it comes as no surprise that the price of potatoes – and all other greens and root vegetables – should now be astronomical. Also, the government isn’t seriously incentivizing farming and there’s a long list of complaints regarding its Agro Patria agricultural program.

agricultores de trujillo, venezuela

Venezuela imports over 70% of the food it consumes. Now that the price of oil is down in the dumps and more than 24 billion dollars have been swallowed up by the portfolios of who knows how many ministers and government officials, it will be long before the general public can access food and other essential products with a modicum of dignity.

(***) The value of the US dollar in Venezuela: There are numerous different exchange rates.
Cencoex: 6.30 Bs
SICAD (for travelers): 12.80 Bs
SIMADI: 198.29 Bs
Parallel: 700 Bs
The government insists that food and medication are sold at the Cencoex exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar.
Minimum wage is around 7.000 Bs a month.
At this exchange rate, the kilo of potatoes is sold at around 90 US dollars

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Caridad: If I had the chance to choose what my next life would be like, I’d like to be water. If I had the chance to eliminate a worst aspect of the world I would erase fear. Of all the human feelings I most like I prefer friendship. I was born in the year of the first Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, the day that Gay Pride is celebrated around the world. I no longer live on the east side of Havana; I’m trying to make a go of it in Caracas, and I continue to defend my right to do what I want and not what society expects of me.

14 thoughts on “Venezuela’s Crisis Is No Small Potatoes

  • August 26, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Two years? Last year you said by the end of the year. Changing your tune a little? There may be hope for you yet.

  • August 26, 2015 at 11:38 am

    The piece of land called “Venezuela” will survive, but the country is in rapid collapse. Hyper-inflation has hit, shortages of basic staples are growing everyday, crime is soaring, capital flight is increasing as the wealthy elite connected to the ruling PSUV and the Maduro regime are fleeing with everything they can carry.

    The US has many well developed sectors in their economy. If the current low oil prices shut down the more expensive oil extraction projects, the rest of the economy will continue to function. However, 90% of Venezuela’s economy is based on the oil industry. When the prices dropped, it hit Venezuela especially hard. Other oil producing countries have been hurt by the low prices too, but it has been worse for Venezuela because of the rampant corruption and economic mismanagement.

    When the price of oil rises again (and you are correct, it will, but precisely when we don’t know), the US shale oil producers will be back in business driving the US to become the largest oil producer in the world.

    Meanwhile in Venezuela, the Bolivarian Bandits will have long departed, leaving the poor to clean up the mess they made and try to rebuild their country.

  • August 26, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Oil is a finite resource.
    With a growing planetary demand for oil, with the remaining oil becoming more expensive to extract and with no ready alternative expected for about five years, logic dictates that the price has to go up fairly soon.
    Give it a couple of years

  • August 26, 2015 at 8:37 am

    I can’t believe this. I have been trying to purchase jet fuel and regular gas from the Venezuela Oil Company for three months. I can’t even get a simply price quotation from them.

  • August 25, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    If the US wanted to finish Venezuela off, we could simply stop buying their oil. What we purchase from Venezuela does not exceed 5% of the total oil we import, yet it amounts to slightly more than 40% of the market rate crude Venezuela sales abroad. This adds up to about 25% of total oil revenue to Venezuela. We could easily replace Venezuelan oil with Saudi oil. Venezuela could not easily replace the US as a customer. Venezuela needs that “ugly head” more than the ugly head needs Venezuela.

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