By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Polar, the brewer that makes 80% of Venezuelan beer, said Friday afternoon it had closed its last plant in operation, citing hard currency shortages.
Beer represents 70% of all the alcohol Venezuelans drink, according to industry sources.
Cerveceria Regional, the second largest brewer, and which produces only 15% of the country’s beer, stands to gain but analysts doubt it can meet the demand. An official with the Venezuelan Beer Makers Chamber predicted shortages for the next 90 days at the very least.
“Even if all the other brewers band together, there will be beer shortages,” she said. “Even if Polar gets all the currency it needs today, there will be three months of beer shortages”.
In a tersely worded email, Cervecería Polar informed that “operations were suspended today” at the San Joaquín plant in Carabobo state, the brewer’s largest facility. Already closed are the company’s three other plants in the capital city of Caracas and in Anzoategui and Zulia states.
Polar needs $160 million in hard currency to cover overdue obligations with providers, Marisa Guinand, a company spokeswoman told the all news television station Globovisión Friday afternoon.
Polar is the largest beer-maker in a country with a thirst for beer. Venezuelans put away about 71 liters of beer every year, making it number 25 in the ranking of beer-drinking country’s drafted by Kirin, a large Japanese brewer. According to that ranking, Venezuelans drink more beer than Britons do (67.7 liters a year in 2014) and only slightly less than their Dutch drinking buddies (71.4 liters a year).
In Latin America, only Belize and Panama beat Venezuela when it comes to beer drinking.