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Venezuela: Vegetable cultivation fell by 30% in 2016

Staff Writer |
Vegetable cultivation, especially of potatoes, is facing the same problems as in previous years.

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There is an absence of seeds. Emmanuel Escalona, the national director of vegetables for the Confederation of Associations of Agricultural Producers (Fedeagro), said this lack of seeds has generated limited expectations in the sector, reports.

Potato seeds, for example, should have arrived to the country a year and a half ago, but producers haven't received them yet. It's worth noting that the seeds are sold to producers; they aren't given to them for free.

Escalona said that seed imports were within the exclusive competence of the State, since the administration of Elias Jaua in the Ministry of Production and Land. As a result, the high areas of the country, especially in the Andean region, are starting a new potato planting cycle without having any seeds available.

While it is possible to continue planting by using the seeds yielded by the previous crops, the truth is these seeds have already lost genetic quality and will therefore be less profitable.

He said he regretted that this crop wasn't part of the priorities of the current administration of the ministry, headed by Wilmar Castro Soteldo, who, according to domestic producers such as Escalona, has focused on the grain sector and on his home state, Portuguesa.

However, more than two million people depend directly or indirectly on the cultivation of vegetables as a source of employment. The absence of conditions could bring about an economic recession to different areas, such as Los Andes and Lara.

Escalona said the national government had promised to solve the shortage of vegetable seed by the end of 2016.

The country's associations have recorded an 80% average standstill in the farming land dedicated to vegetable due to the lack of response and attention.

Last year the country only produced 30% of the vegetables it consumes. Producers are buying the imported seeds on the black market.

The tomato sector's production was below the 30% it achieved in 2015, which was also a negative year. Currently, the speculative market sells a bag of 25 thousand seeds for 400 thousand bolivars. Previously, they cost 40 thousand bolivares.

Potato production was also below 30%. A 40 kilograms sack of potato seeds, which used to cost some 20,000 bolivars, can be obtained smuggled from Colombia and can cost 110,000 bolivars.

A can of onion seeds used to cost 4,000 bolivars. Now, it costs 280,000 bolivars. If it is a recognized brand, producers can pay up to 800 thousand bolivars. Paprika seed can be bought in the black market for 1 million bolivars.

Escalona said these prices, which will generate severe shortages and an increase in prices at the major trade and consumption centers, were out of touch with reality.

There is also a lack of agrochemicals. The national director of Fedeagro reiterated that the sector's willingness to solve the problem remained intact. However, the policies being implemented are becoming less and less efficient.

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