Venezuela’s Maduro Accuses Polar’s Mendoza of Product Shortages

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro accused Lorenzo Mendoza, owner of Empresas Polar SA, Venezuela’s largest privately held company, of reducing food production and creating shortages amid record scarcity and the region’s fastest inflation.

“We have many signs that Polar has been cutting production and hiding products, pretending that nothing is happening, to create shortages of products such as pre-cooked corn flour,” Maduro said. Corn flour is used to make arepas, or patties, that are a breakfast staple in many Venezuelan homes.

Venezuela’s scarcity index, which measures the amount of goods that are out of stock on the market, rose to 21.3 percent last month, the highest since the central bank started tracking the measure in April 2009. Maduro this week visited Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. Brazil is studying emergency food sales to Venezuela, Marco Aurelio Garcia, foreign policy adviser to President Dilma Rousseff, said on May 9.

Venezuela wants to work with Polar, Maduro said yesterday on state television. He ordered Vice President Jorge Arreaza to arrange a meeting in his offices.

“We are willing to go to the necessary institutions to cooperate with the search for solutions that favor the Venezuelan people and collaborate with the country’s food security,” Polar said in a statement posted on its Facebook page, adding that the company would attend the meeting.

Consumer prices rose 4.3 percent in April, pushing the annual inflation rate to 29.4 percent, the highest since August 2010, from 25.1 percent a month earlier.

Maduro defeated the opposition’s Henrique Capriles Radonski by 1.49 percent, the narrowest margin in 45 years, on April 14 after Hugo Chavez died March 5 from an undisclosed type of cancer. Capriles is contesting the result in the Supreme Court, while the electoral council finishes an audit of the votes.

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