Venezuela Agriculture and Fishing Overview

Agriculture and fishing

Agriculture in Venezuela is poorly developed and less important to the economy than most other Latin American countries. The unilateral investment in the oil industry has long hampered agriculture.

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The land is largely owned by a few large property owners with a weak interest in production. Under a 2001 law, the state may confiscate privately owned land that is not used. One hope was that the law would contribute to reduced dependence on food imports and to rural development. For Venezuela defense and foreign policy, please check themotorcyclers.

Up to 2012, according to official data, the state had taken over 7.7 million hectares of land, of which 1.1 million hectares were distributed to farm workers under government projects. During the same period, however, production decreased and the need for food imports increased. One contributing factor was increased consumption – through social initiatives and subsidies many Venezuelans gained access to more food (see Social conditions). But it was also difficult for producers to gain profitability due to price controls and inflation (see Economic overview), and competition from cheap food from primarily the United States, Brazil and Colombia. The government has nationalized companies and regulated the production, distribution and sale of food, which created uncertainty and frightened investors. Up to half of the food is imported from abroad.

The land is poorly utilized. Large landowners keep large portions of their land in the trough, partly because of concerns that contracts and ownership are not being respected.

The most important agricultural products are corn, sugar cane, rice, bananas, coffee, cocoa, meat, milk and eggs. The largest export crops include rice, tobacco, coffee and cocoa. Milk, wheat, potatoes and sugar are important import goods.

The fishing industry was long underdeveloped despite the long coast and the many rivers and lakes. In recent years, catches have increased, especially by tuna. The government is trying to develop the fishing industry and protect the fish stock. Industrial fishing is not allowed near the coast.

Half of the mainland is covered by forest. Despite valuable woods, forestry is not very developed. Gold and diamond mining in southern Venezuela has damaged the rainforest.


Agriculture’s share of GDP

5.0 percent (2014)

Percentage of land used for agriculture

24.5 percent (2016)

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Opposition leaders released

December 31st

Former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales is set free after just over a year (see October 2015) along with five student activists arrested in connection with the unrest in 2014. According to the opposition, around 100 activists are still detained.

Paper shortage forces newspaper to close

December 29

Venezuela’s oldest newspaper, El Impulso, ceases to be published due to a lack of paper. Employees will be available until mid-January. If the situation has not been resolved, the magazine will simply be on the web, says the editor-in-chief.

The border with Colombia is closed

December 12

President Maduro closes the border with Colombia and justifies the action of the “mafia” being active in the border area and causing enormous damage to the economy. Many goods subsidized by the state of Venezuela are sold with great profits in Colombia.

Banknotes are abolished in the fight against smuggling

December 11

The government announces that the 100 bolívar banknote (worth about 17 øre) will expire within three days, to access smugglers who have hidden money abroad. It is reported that there are about 6 billion banknotes, which make up about half the currency in circulation. Citizens are given ten days to exchange the banknotes for coins and new banknotes with higher denominations. The order causes panic and great congestion as everyone tries to exchange the notes. Looting is reported and soldiers are dispatched to the streets to restore order. After a few days, Maduro extends the possibility of exchange to January 2, and just before New Year he extends the validity of the 100-Bolívar banknote to January 20, “so that everyone can celebrate New Year in peace and quiet”.

Requirements for voting on the president

December 6

The opposition is withdrawing from ongoing crisis talks and demanding that the government release political prisoners and allow a vote on whether President Maduro should continue his term of office. Fourteen imprisoned opposition leaders are said to have initiated a hunger strike with the same demands.

Mercosur closes Venezuela

1 December

The South American Free Trade Organization Mercosur is suspending Venezuela because the country is not considered to live up to the principles of democracy and freedom of trade. The other Mercosur countries had given Venezuela three months to incorporate central agreements into their legislation. There are reportedly 112 resolutions on trade, politics, democracy and human rights.


Fragile “truce” begins

November 2

The opposition decides to suspend a planned giant demonstration against the presidential palace and a planned symbolic trial against Maduro in parliament, to give the talks under the auspices of the Vatican a chance. However, parts of the prolific opposition alliance MUD are critical of the decision and fear it will be a tactic that will strike back against the government’s opponents.


Emergency calls begin

October 30th

Maduro and other government officials meet opposition representatives, for the first time this year, during the mediation of, among other things, the Vatican’s envoy. Already a week earlier, it has been announced that a national dialogue has begun, since Pope Francis unexpectedly had a meeting with Maduro. More formal conversations will start soon, it is called.

Giant demonstrations against the government

October 26th

Hundreds of thousands of people take part in mass rallies in protest of obstructing the referendum.

The National Assembly votes for national law

October 25th

The opposition is voting to start a process of dismissing Maduro and accusing him of violating the constitution. They accuse him of carrying out a coup against democracy because the referendum was stopped. During the debate, government supporters stormed the hall on one occasion. The Government notes that the decision on national law is ineffective because HD has annulled the National Assembly. The President accuses the members of trying to implement a coup.

CNE stops referendum campaign

October 20

The electoral authority postpones the process by referring to the fact that courts in several states reported fraud in connection with the first round of signature collection. The decision comes when only one week remains until the ongoing collection of signatures is to be terminated. The opposition says that the decision means that the crisis is escalating. Capriles and seven other opposition leaders say they are being prevented from leaving the country.

The state elections are postponed

October 19

The CNE electoral authority announces that the state elections that should have been held by December will not be held until midway into 2017 at first. Opinion polls have indicated that the ruling party PSUV would suffer setbacks in the elections.

Budget is adopted through decree

October 14

President Maduro issues a decree with the 2017 budget, even though the Constitution provides for the National Assembly to vote on the issue. The day before, the Supreme Court has decided that the president does not have to go through the National Assembly, in order for the “functioning of the state” to be maintained. According to both the President and the HD, the National Assembly lacks legitimacy because the three disputed members are allowed to participate in the work.


Continued financial emergency

September 15th

For the fourth time, Maduro is extending the state of emergency that has existed since the beginning of the year and which gives him extensive powers.

HD cancels laws

September 6

The Supreme Court ruled that the laws passed by the National Assembly are invalid because the three suspended members are allowed to participate (see July 2016). The government-friendly court has already blocked most of the legislative proposals from the National Assembly, but is now going a step further.

Mass demonstrations against Maduro

1 September

Hundreds of thousands of people participate as the opposition conducts what is said to be the biggest protest march of the decade, demanding the resignation of President Nicolás Maduro. The organizers say that around one million participate in the protests. Government supporters hold a counter-demonstration.


Opposition leaders again in prison

August 27th

Daniel Ceballos is sent back to prison after being held under house arrest since August 2015. According to the Interior Ministry, Ceballos had planned to flee and coordinate the violence in connection with a demonstration on September 1. A few weeks earlier, a court rejected opposition leader Leopoldo López’s request to have his case tried in the higher court. The decision has sparked protests from the USA, France, Spain and the OAS, among others.

Ecuadorian parliamentarians are expelled

August 26th

The government orders a delegation of visiting MPs from Ecuador to leave the country after meeting opposition representatives in Caracas.

New Minister of the Interior and Justice

August 3rd

General Néstor Reverol is appointed to both Interior and Justice Ministers the day after a US court appointed him for involvement in drug trafficking. Reverol, who was also Minister of the Interior even under President Chávez, comes from a post as head of the National Guard. He replaces Gustavo González who again becomes head of the intelligence service (see March 2015).

Enough signatures in the process against Maduro

1 August

The CNE electoral authority announces that enough of the signatures collected by the opposition have been approved for the proceeding against Maduro. The process that would take five working days has been going on for three months (see May 2016). Now, however, CNE has determined that there are at least 200,000 approved signatures, corresponding to at least 1 percent of voters in all 24 states.


The National Assembly reinstates suspended members

July 28

Parliament votes for the three suspended MUD members to now participate in the work, which in turn gives the opposition a two-thirds majority (see January 2016). Diosdado Cabello has warned that such a vote could result in the three being imprisoned.

HD cancels the judge’s dismissal

July 21st

The Supreme Court cancels a parliamentary session a week earlier, when the National Assembly voted to dismiss the 13 judges and 21 deputies in the Supreme Court who were appointed in a hurry after the election (see December 2015). The opposition considered that the judges were appointed illegally, several of them stated, among other things, lacking relevant legal background. HD now says that the whole parliamentary session is completely of no value.

Chaos at new border opening

July 17

Around 167,000 Venezuelans cross the border when it is temporarily reopened over a weekend to shop for groceries. A week earlier, the border was opened for the first time in almost a year, and around 35,000 crossed the border from Táchira to Cúcuta in Colombia. After the second opening, the Colombian government says afterwards that it will no longer allow the border to be temporarily opened; the storm is getting too big.

Military control over food production and distribution

July 12

General Vladimir Padrino López, Minister of Defense since October 2014, becomes new “super-minister” responsible for food distribution in the country. All other ministries and government agencies must report to López, which thus gets a very strong position of power. The military also takes control of five ports and is responsible for monitoring food factories. The intention is to secure the supply of food and also medicines.


Increased looting leads to arrests

June 16

Police are said to have arrested more than 400 people since extensive looting broke out in Sucre’s capital Cumaná. People are breaking into bakeries, grocery stores and other stores, in search of food and other supplies, even in other cities around the country. The army is sent to Cumaná to restore order.

First step clear for referendum

7 June

The CNE electoral authority announces that 1.3 million of the signatures on the call for a referendum are valid. In the next step, at least 200,000 of them have to confirm their identity with fingerprints.

OAS crisis meeting on Venezuela

June 1st

Following calls from the opposition, OAS chief Almagro requests that the Member States investigate whether the democratic regime in Venezuela has been disturbed by “constitutional changes” in the constitutional framework. Maduro calls it “foreign intervention” and threatens the members of the National Assembly who turned to the OAS with a charge of treason against the nation.


Stop for flights to Venezuela

30 May

German airline Lufthansa announces that the Caracas-Frankfurt flight route will be closed because, among other things, currency control makes it impossible to make any profit in dollars from the country. Shortly thereafter, the largest airline in Latin America, the Chile-based Latam, follows Lufthansa’s example and stops all traffic to Venezuela indefinitely.

Sugar shortage prevents soft drinks

May 23

Ordinary Coca-Cola can no longer be produced due to a lack of sugar, the company in question states. The drink stoppage follows a similar one about beer jams, when the country’s largest food and beverage company Polar Group ceased to manufacture beer and accused the government of neglect. Polar Group’s owner Lorenzo Mendoza is known as a sharp critic of Maduro. The president has responded to Polar Group’s message threatening to seize stationary factories. The owners of factories where the business is located also run the risk of being imprisoned, the president said.

Full state of emergency throughout the country

May 13th

Maduro says it is needed to fight foreign aggression, which he believes is causing the country’s crisis. This is primarily for two months but is likely to be extended, according to the president.

Name collection to dispose of Maduro

May 2

The opposition in the National Assembly submits a call to the CNE electoral authority in which about 1.9 million voters demand a referendum to cast President Maduro.


Maduro for two days working week

April 27

The government decides that public employees should work only Mondays and Tuesdays until the serious energy crisis is resolved. Schools should be closed on Fridays.

Elonation for 40 days

April 21

The deep economic crisis in the country is causing the government to introduce electricity rationing four hours a day for 40 days.

Fridays are holidays

April 7

Maduro decides to extend the weekend for two months, due to the energy crisis blamed on prolonged drought


Strategy to get rid of Maduro

March 8th

After several weeks of discussions, MUD presents a presentation on how the president should be forced out, using all “constitutional means”. It includes a referendum to revoke the president, a constitutional amendment to shorten the president’s term in office and mass protests against the government.

HD cuts Parliament’s power

March 1st

The power struggle at the highest level continues when the Supreme Court’s constitutional department states that the National Assembly should only supervise the executive power – not the judiciary. Thus, the court claims that the parliamentarians have no right, as planned, to debate the appointment of 13 judges in December.


The gasoline price is raised and the currency is devalued

February 17th

In a four-hour television talk, Maduro announces a series of measures to try to deal with the economic crisis. The gasoline price that has not been touched in 20 years is increased by 6,000 percent, the minimum wage is also raised and various measures are taken in an attempt to counter tax evasion and reform the food industry. As usual, the president accuses the right of waging “economic war” against the state.

Water scarcity leads to electricity rationing

February 7

According to the authorities, water levels are at critically low levels in 18 of the country’s power plant ponds, due to the El Niño weather phenomenon. Water is now rationed to homes and shopping centers in Caracas announce that opening hours should be limited to four hours a day, due to the electricity rationing that has introduced.


Financial state of emergency

January 15

Maduro calls for an “economic emergency” to deal with the deeper crisis in the country. The President is given the right to govern with decrees and before tax increases as well as special measures to pay for welfare services and food imports. State controls over companies are tightened. New figures from the central bank show that the economy shrank by 4.5 percent during the first three quarters of 2015.

Suspended members abstain from HD decisions

January 13

The three MUD politicians agree to refrain from taking office in the National Assembly while allegations of irregularities in connection with the election are being investigated. It happens after the Supreme Court has announced that all decisions in Parliament are invalid as long as the three participate. The three members write in a letter that they do not accept the Supreme Court’s decision, but give up their seats to resolve the political deadlock that has arisen.

Suspended members are sworn in

January 5

However, when Parliament convenes for the first time, the three deposed MUD members are still sworn in (see December 2015). The confrontation between the government and the opposition thus seems to be a fact. The government threatens to notify the opponents of court violations. The new majority also lets Chavez remove pictures from the parliament building. The newly elected Speaker Henry Ramos Allup immediately promises an amnesty for imprisoned opposition leaders and suggests that Maduro should be dismissed within six months.

The President gains increased power

January 2

In early January, it is discovered that just before his presidential decree expired at the New Year (see March 2015), Maduro passed through a dozen laws. Among them is one that gives the president free rein in public funding. This means that the National Assembly is deprived of the right to manage the finances, which is contrary to the Constitution. The government is given the right to withhold economic statistics (which has been done since a year) and free hands to print banknotes. A decree also means that it will be virtually impossible to dismiss employees for three years.

Venezuela Agriculture and Fishing