Photo: El Universo retrieved
“My biggest worry is that the factory closes after all we’ve been through,” says Rafael García, a union leader from the Nestlé factory in Valencia, north of Venezuela. As reported by Reuters’ Corina Pons and Mayela Armas in Spanish, the factory has temporarily suspended its activities (primarily bottling baby food) until May, following a crisis of dwindling demand for its products, and the electric crash hitting all of the country.
“Production has fallen to the minimum, and it’ll keep getting worse,” says García. “There’ll be a moment people won’t have anything to eat.”
This situation isn’t rare. Just in Valencia, once considered the industrial capital of the country, only around 500 private companies remain active.
Antonello Lorusso runs a barely operational food packaging company in the city. According to Reuters’ piece, only one of the nine installed packing machines can run with the power produced by the single generator that provides most of Lorusso’s electricity nowadays. State-owned Corpoelec announced an electricity rationing plan that included all of the country except Caracas two weeks ago, but blackouts still come at any time, usually lasting longer than the three hours they are supposed to.
Just in Valencia, once considered the industrial capital of the country, only around 500 private companies remain active.
“I can’t tell how many hours of power we had last week (…) something between 24 and 30 hours in total,” said the owner of Distribuidora Marina, another company in the city.
“There’s no information (…) we don’t know if the (power interruptions) will prolong themselves or not,” added Lorusso, who was forced to turn one of his company’s trucks into a water cistern (in many cities, power outages means no running water) and is trying to sell another to buy a second power generator.
A similar picture is painted all over the country. In El Vigia, a city near Merida where blackouts have been a constant problem for several years now, people have been forced to live with only a couple hours of electricity every day, and when power comes back, the voltage is so low that fridges can’t even start. My uncle, a Portuguese immigrant who came to Venezuela 60 years ago, owns a small supermarket in the city. The constant outages and problems with telecommunications have sharply reduced his sales and his power generator has broken down two times in the last three weeks.
Power outages also mean less pumped water for the central, rural states, where most of the heavily diminished agricultural production is focused. According to Reuters’ piece, only 17,500 hectares of rice have been sown this year, a third of those planted a year ago, with many crops already lost in places like Cojedes. It’s estimated that March’s blackouts meant a $210 million loss to the Venezuelan food industry, which already expects a further $100 million contraction due to the “rationing plan” put in place this month.
Power outages also mean less pumped water for the central, rural states, where most of the heavily diminished agricultural production is focused.
Cattle and milk farms have been hit particularly hard, having seen their sales reduced to half last month, because customers avoided buying products that need refrigeration. Add this to existing problems like price controls, looting and cattle robbery and it’s easy to see why the industry barely stands. Only last month, hundreds of stores were looted in Maracaibo, during the infamous five-day long blackout, leaving several million dollars in losses.
“We’ve been getting used to the coming situation for years,” said Lorusso to the Reuters team. “We took this hard blow, but we’re already finding ways to manage.”
In this dystopian wasteland Venezuela has turned into, not many can adapt. And without a political change, even those who can, are simply prolonging the inevitable.
For a complete look at Pons and Armas’ report, click here.