Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You still can't believe everything you read. 

People who follow the news on Venezuela will know that over the past year there have supposedly been widespread food shortages in Venezuela. Reports indicate all sorts of items, milk, eggs, poultry, etc., are hard to find.

This of course makes it into the international media in such a way as to make it seem that our poor Venezuelan friends aren't getting enough to eat. Take this for example:

At first glance the supermarket off Avenida Francisco Miranda appeared to be a gourmet dream. Smoked salmon in the freezer. An aisle filled with Italian olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pesto. Another aisle stacked with Perrier, champagne and the finest Scotch.

But of milk, eggs, sugar and cooking oil there was no sign. Where were they? The question yesterday prompted a puzzled look from the manager. "There isn't any. Everybody knows that. Pasta is probably the next to go," he shrugged.

Welcome to Venezuela, a booming economy with a difference. Food shortages are plaguing the country at the same time that oil revenues are driving a spending splurge on imported luxury goods, prompting criticism of President Hugo Chávez's socialist policies.

Milk has all but vanished from shops. Distraught mothers ask how they are supposed to feed their infants. Many cafes and restaurants serve only black coffee.

Families say eggs and sugar are also a memory. "The last time I had them was September," said Marisol Perez, 51, a housewife in Petare, a sprawling barrio in eastern Caracas.

Sounds dire doesn't it? Almost makes me expect to be running into a lot of badly emaciated people in Venezuela.

Thing is, it apparently isn't all that hard to find those items. Take eggs for example. According to the El Universal newspaper the consumption of eggs is up 40% over the past 6 years. How ironic, and not at all what one would expect from reading articles like the one quoted above.

That interesting stat in turn led me to catch up on my reading on the poultry industry from which I learned that not only is egg consumption up 40% over the past six years but that poultry meat (ie, chicken) consumption is up 45% during the same period (please do read the linked article which is in English and has an excellent table of these numbers half way down). Further, domestic poultry production is up despite the problems with price controls.

The end result is that in spite of all the chicken little reporting from some in the international press about food "shortages" we see yet again clear numbers indicating that food consumption has INCREASED significantly under Chavez.

The reporters who write those articles really are remiss in talking about "shortages" while not mentioning increased food consumption. One has to wonder, are they trying to inform or just write cheap propaganda in order to slander a government they don't like?


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