Venezuela’s main brewer suspends operations as crisis bites

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CARACAS: Venezuela’s economic crisis claimed another victim as the country’s largest brewer said Saturday it is suspending operations because it can’t obtain hard currency to buy supplies.

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The Polar beer company’s closure of its four plants in Venezuela on Friday will lay off 7,000 employees for up to two months.

After the company distributes its remaining stocks of beer over the next few days, the stoppage will affect a total of 10,000 employees, and many more whose livelihood indirectly depends on the company, such as truck drivers.

Polar said in a statement that it is shutting down its plants because it has been unable to obtain dollars to import barley.

The company has a 70 percent market share in Venezuela and is part of a huge business group that produces many everyday consumer products such as cornmeal.

Venezuela’s leftist government imposed tight currency controls in 2003 in an effort to crack down on a bustling black market in dollars.

Now the oil-dependent OPEC member is weathering a severe economic crisis largely fueled by the steep drop in global oil prices.

With most of Venezuela’s hard currency revenue coming from oil exports, the lower oil prices make dollars even harder to get than before the crisis.

Companies here need greenbacks to import goods because crude is essentially Venezuela’s only product.

Venezuelans already face acute shortages of such basics as toilet paper thanks to the scarcity of dollars. AFP

AFP/CC

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