Venezuela farmers stalled, McDonalds runs out of potatoes to fry

World Today

“La Feria del CCCT, Chuao, Caracas” by Liliana Amundaraín (Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Potato farmers in Venezuela seem to be running out of options after a months-long stall in seed imports have caused the potato supply there to dwindle. The Venezuelan Producers Association, also called FEDEAGRO, says it is up to the Venezuelan government to import seeds from outside of the country and they control the quantity of seeds ordered. According to farmers, they are not getting clear information from the Venezuelan government on plans to order seeds nor the quantities they plan to import.

The USDA says potato demand is growing quickly in Venezuela due an expanding fast food industry that includes popular international chains like McDonalds and Burger King. Potato farmers are struggling to meet the demands of the contracts they have with these franchises. More than 100 McDonalds restaurants in Venezuela ran out of potatoes in January.
“I now choose other fast food brands, as French fries is the most attractive food at McDonald’s,” said Jose Salazar a local in Caracas.

Aldemaro Ortega, Director of the Venezuelan Production Association said many potato producers have signed supply contracts for 2015 with purchasers and will be allowed to sign more contracts for the year after the government grants their requests to import relevant supplies that will allow farmers to do their jobs and grow potatoes to meet growing demand.

“That will need purchasers, representatives from the government and the farmers to negotiate orders of potatoes, the purchasers have to make clear their demands, then we will see if we can meet their needs and the government will be responsible for buying seeds,” Ortega said.

Critics say Venezuela’s multi-tiered exchange rate system also causes disillusion among local farmers when it comes to the domestic production system that is in place.

“Business people can take advantage of low exchange rate when importing relevant merchandises and then use high exchange rates when selling products and the exchange rate policy has make many producers lose their [sic] momentum to work.” said Nicmer Evans, a political commentator.

Report compiled with information from CCTV News.