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The new ministry will facilitate food consumption through popular programs. It will also expand the state’s agro-alimentary companies and industries, in order to break private monopolies in processing, distribution, and commercialization of first necessities.

As of now, the Food Ministry will be in charge of the production, processing, distribution, and commercialization of first necessities. It will undertake some of the duties carried out by the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture, such as the granting and control of importing licenses for strategic products: powder milk, sugar, wheat, cereals, and oleaginous, leguminous, and finished products.

The new ministry, under the direction of general Rafael Oropeza - heretofore president of the Corporation of Agricultural Supplies and Services (CASA)- will regulate, formulate, and evaluate the policies related with food supply and consumption.

The governmental resolution stipulates that the new ministry “will regulate government activities concerning food in general, including the commercialization, industry, marketing and distribution of products derived from agriculture, fishing, forest activity and animal raising and processing.”

It is important to point out that some of these activities were functions of the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture (MAT), and therefore part of its infrastructure and personnel will be as of now subordinated to the new ministry.

This new governmental entity will undertake all the policies related to the safeguarding of food supply, like guaranteeing the storage of cereals and the handling of inventories of finished products for exceptional cases, such as national disasters or political turmoil, like the December 2002/February 2003 shutdown of several food processing industries.

On that occasion, there was an attempt against national food supply and consumption; the population did not have access to products like precooked corn flour, milk, tuna, and sardines, and a distortion in the food distribution and commercialization chain took place.

The decree for the creation of this ministry also states that it “will direct the activities concerning food reception, storage, preservation, transportation, distribution, delivery, allocation and consumption.”

It will also supervise and administrate the state companies of the food sector like Food Markets (Mercal) -which currently supply more than 20% of the first necessities-, the Venezuelan Agrarian Corporation -whose role is to establish and finance food producing industries, besides promoting agricultural development-,and the CASA, whose function is to commercialize local and imported products in order to guarantee food supply.

Until now, this state entity had been allotted a 261,000 U$ trusteeship from the Bank of Economic and Social Development (Bandes), to purchase national and imported products.

It will additionally coordinate and direct, along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, international negotiations involving agriculture, fishing, forest activity, animal raising and processing, and food in general. Tariff reduction negotiations between Venezuela and Mercosur (Common Market of the South) countries are pending.

The Food Ministry will also follow the negotiations of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the World Trade Organization agreements, and promote the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean).

Along with the other ministries involved, it will regulate the prices of food and other first necessities.

Since February, 2003, there has been price regulation for precooked corn flour, pasta, rice, powder milk, beef, chicken, eggs, cheese, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, coffee, sugar, salt, lentils, black beans, tuna, sardines, cooking oil, sausages, and other products.

Published in Quantum N.33