On Monday, Venezuela Government inspectors accompanied by National Guard troops arrived at two beer plants operated by the country’s largest private company, Empresas Polar, to determine if there really was no imported malted barley to brew. Empresas Polar closed down its brewing operations, which provided 40% of the company’s sales and produces 80% of the beer consumed in Venezuela, because it wasn’t receiving the dollars it needed from the government to pay for imported barley. The beer plant closings have led the company to lay off 6,500 workers who produced Solera, Polar Light and other well-known beer brands with another 3,500 soon to be without work.
It should be noted that a bottle of Polar, which sports a polar bear on its label, costs 14 cents at the black market rate but $15 at the official exchange rate that is rarely used.
The second-largest beer producer in Venezuela, Regional Beer, is so small it would only be able to replace up to 20% of the market’s beer supply at full production speed while the country’s tropical climate is inhospitable for growing Barley in large quantities. As the media notes, beer now joins hundreds of medications, birth control pills, breast implants, and most foods on the list of items Venezuelans either have absolutely no access to or must toil on six-hour grocery lines to acquire in rationed portions.
In a quote that could have been lifted from an Ayn Ran novel, President Nicolás Maduro has said in public comments:
“Whoever stops a plant, an industry, a factory will be punished by law. Plant closed, plant reclaimed by the working class.”
See Beer Here? Venezuela Officials Check If Empresas Polar Really Ran Out of Barley, Venezuela’s Largest Beer Producer Shuts Down and Beer shortage for Venezuelans proves tough to swallow. In addition, check out our list of the few remaining Venezuela ADRs here and our Latin America ETF lists.
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