CARACAS – The Venezuelan government began Friday what officials said would be a 90-day occupation of a pasta plant owned by U.S.-based food giant Cargill after finding that it was not producing the stipulated amount of product to sell at the regulated price.
The “temporary occupation” of the plant located in La Guaira near Caracas was announced by Venezuela’s deputy minister for food, Rafael Coronado.
Coronado said the measure was applied after a government inspection showed that the plant was not producing the proportion of 70 percent pasta at the regulated price and 30 percent of the kind that may be sold at a free market price as the law has required since March.
Found at the plant during the inspection on Thursday were 786,000 kilos (866 tons) of pasta, of which 466,000 kilos (514 tons) were non-regulated pasta and 320,000 kilos (352 tons) were at the regulated price, the official said.
Inspections at pasta plants began this week after the detection of a “failure in the supply of regulated pasta,” Coronado said.
He said that the presumed scarcity occurred after the government decreed the new proportions of production for regulated pasta and the lowering of the price from $1.57 per kilo (2.2 pounds) to $1.51.
Leftist President Hugo Chavez expropriated at the beginning of March a Cargill rice plant and ordered a judicial investigation because it was not making the right ratio of regulated product.
Cargill, which has operated in Venezuela since 1986, produces rice, pasta, cooking oil, flour, sugar, coffee, milk, margarine, yeast and pet products. EFE