Although rich in oil, Venezuela is being forced to import the most important ingredient in the Venezuelan diet: corn.
“I think it’s a disgrace,” said Venezuelan-born chef Miguel Aguilar of the main ingredient in his beloved arepa, a corn flour patty stuffed with anything from meats to cheeses and vegetables. Corn flour is more expensive these days as the country faces food shortages and high inflation amid an economic and political crisis.
“Why does a country that can grow corn have to import it?" said Aguilar. "I don’t understand that. It’s hurting the economy. It’s hurting the Venezuelan people."
The cost of corn flour skyrocketed to unaffordable levels as the government set a low price that does not meet the cost of production. Another problem: the agricultural sector of this South American country is not as developed as its oil market.
“Venezuela is not a food sufficient country,” said Mahadev Bhat, Director at Florida International University’s Agroecology Program. The country imports most of its food -- meats, fruits, vegetables and even bread.
“In oil rich countries, traditionally they tend to focus on that one commodity that brings so much export earning and other sectors become neglected,” said Bhat. As oil prices went down, the government was no longer able to provide food and welfare subsidies, Bhat added.