Business group says Venezuela orders food producers to divert staples to state supermarkets

CARACAS, Venezuela – Private companies in Venezuela say the government has ordered them to distribute food staples to a network of state-run supermarkets amid chronic shortages of basic goods.

The Food Industry Chamber said Monday that authorities ordered producers of milk, pasta, oil, rice, sugar and flour to supply between 30 per cent and 100 per cent of their products to the state stores.

The chamber says there are 15 times as many private stores in the socialist South American country as state-run ones. Chamber President Pablo Baraybar says the order could cause major supply problems.

Government officials could not be reached for comment.

Rigid currency controls and a shortage of U.S. dollars make it difficult for Venezuelans to find imported goods. Companies say controls make it hard to turn a profit and justify production.