Editor's Note: One of several tactics in Washington's strategy to destroy the people's confidence in their government in 2007 was to attack Venezuela's food supply. They were able to create food shortages because wealthy members of the opposition still had significant control over food production and distribution. Some food shortages resulted from hoarding of food in secret warehouses, destroying food in dumps and from illegally smuggling food out of the country to Colombia. Owners of super mercados also withheld the food from the shelves in their own markets to create an illusion of food shortages. The response from the Chávez administration has been robust. A combination of law enforcement and the creation of PDVAL and Enlandes has broken the back of Washington's food shortage strategy. Super market shelves here in La Victoria, in Caracas and across the country are now full and overflowing with fresh fruits & produce, meat, all dairy products, rice, other grains and every kind of packaged foods imaginable.
- Les Blough in Venezuela
Empresa Nacional Lácteos Los Andes (Enlandes) is the new Venezuelan state-run milk company aimed at strengthening, together with PDVAL (nationwide food supply network), food supply and distribution in Venezuela.
In March, 2008, the milk company Lacteos Los Andes was bought by the Venezuelan State in order to guarantee milk production and distribution in Venezuela, which had to face milk shortage between December 2007 and January 2008.
Lacteos Los Andes was then named Empresa Nacional Lácteos Los Andes (Enlandes). According to its president, Mauricio Herrera, this company was bought by the Venezuelan State to assure food sovereignty. It processes, packs and distributes 19 different short- and long-life refrigerated and pasteurized products such as milk, juice, yogurts, chicha, rice pudding, chocolate, and cheese, among others.
Before it was bought by the State, it accounted for 35% of the domestic market, and nowadays it represents 37%.
Producers and manufacturers processed milk to make it profitable
Between November 2007 and January 2008 milk production slipped and producers held the government responsible for the alleged losses since it implemented price controls on staples in order to stop speculation.
Nevertheless, the government fixed prices were fair for producers and consumers according to some surveys.
According to Mauricio Herrera, President of Enlandes, some producers decided to withdraw from the regulated market and position their products in other markets where no price control was in force. Likewise, companies such as Lacteos Los Andes, when run by its former owners, aimed 70% of their milk to produce cheese, yogurts and other by-products since they represented a bigger added value, and pasteurized only 15% of their milk, a very low figure to meet the milk demand.
Juan José Quintero, milk reception chief of Enlandes, located in Barinas state, tells that milk production actually dropped between 16% and 18% during those three months. Many elements were involved. In the summer, pasture dries and cows reduce their milk production. Prices and speculation also interacted since the milk market is very competitive.
Quintero explained that 40 producers withdrew from former Lacteos Los Andes during that period because they claimed that selling milk at controlled prices was making them lose money. So, these producers sold milk to other cheese and milk by-product producing companies which did not follow the norms decreed by the government.
He pointed out that one of its storing centers, located in Socopó, Barina state, sends between 158,000 and 165,000 liters of milk per day to the milk processing-plant in Cabudare, Lara state, and such quantities have remained the same, even during the shortage period.
Enlandes aims at supplying 45% of the domestic market
Rogelio Gutierrez, production manager of Enlandes, mentioned that the company is currently pasteurizing 105,000 liters of milk per day to a total of 625,000 liters per month. He said that - according to projections - production will close at 3,300,000 in April. The goal is to reach 4,500,000 liters per day in May, a goal the company expects to achieve without obstacles because - thanks to the raining season - pasture will grow green again and milk cows will be more productive.
Enlandes, Pdval and Fonaprole Guarantee Milk Supply and Distribution
The president of Enlandes assures that the company will be as competitive as before, even when managed under socialist principles. The first measure the company took was changing the percentages of the use of milk, which will reach 70% for pasteurization and 15% for milk by-products in May.
Even with a small percentage in processing dairy products, their number will remain steady in the market since imports of powdered milk from Argentina, Chile and Belarus, among other countries, are aimed at producing these items. On the other hand, thanks to the National Fund of Milk Production (Fonaprole, Spanish acronym) producers are receiving technical assistance.
Enlandes: A Great Company
It features three milk-processing plants, one in Cabudare, Lara state, other in Nueva Bolivia, Merida state, and one in Caja Seca, Zulia state. Currently, the plants located in Lara and Merida are producing 20, 000 tons of food per month, while theone located in Zulia state is producing cheese, butter and other products.
Enlandes also relies on 57 distribution centers all around Venezuela, 45,000 clients for direct sale and 1,401,000 big, mid-size and small direct and indirect producers.
Relations with producers has remained the same, the Venezuelan State has come here to improve things; we are going to boost the milk sector through the National Fund of Milk Production (Fonaprole, Spanish acronym) in order to supply the domestic market, said Herrera.
By Dexy García / Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information