New Internationalist

Cargill exposed

June 2009

The Venezuelan Government recently initiated expropriation procedures in relation to a plant owned by Cargill, reports Upside Down World. The transnational food company, which recorded nearly $4 billion in net earnings last year, was found to be modifying all its rice so as to evade price controls on basic food items.

Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Land, Richard Canán, reported the results of a week-long investigation which was carried out by Venezuela’s Institute in Defence of People’s Access to Goods and Services (INDEPABIS) at the request of rice producers in the region around the processing plant in Portugesa state. ‘[Cargill] is not even producing one single kilogram of regulated rice, but they do produce 2,400 tons of pre-cooked rice, which is not subject to regulation,’ he explained. INDEPABIS also found approximately 18,000 tons of non-modified rice stored in the plant’s warehouse.

Agriculture and Lands Minister Elías Jaua said the first step in the expropriation would be the temporary occupation of the plant in order to restart the production of rice at the controlled price.

The Chávez Government’s investments in agricultural production over the past 10 years have increased rice production by 94 per cent, but this still falls short of demand. Venezuelans experienced widespread shortages of rice last year when the world food crisis set in and prices soared. Pledging to take stronger measures to guarantee food access to all citizens, Chávez passed the Law on Food Security and Sovereignty, which defines food security as a matter of ‘public utility’.

After ordering the Cargill expropriation, Chávez told his ministers to begin inspections of producers of flour, oil and toilet paper, saying that the state ‘will take decisive measures in favour of the people against those who do not abide by the law’.

This column was published in the June 2009 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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New Internationalist Magazine issue 423
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