Hugo Chavez may be able to receive dictatorial powers from Venezuela's legislature, but he still can't repeal the law of supply and demand. The Washington Post reports that in the wake of price controls,
Meat cuts vanished from Venezuelan supermarkets this week, leaving only unsavory bits like chicken feet, while costly artificial sweeteners have increasingly replaced sugar, and many staples sell far above government-fixed prices.
President Hugo Chavez's administration blames the food supply problems on unscrupulous speculators, but industry officials say government price controls that strangle profits are responsible. Authorities on Wednesday raided a warehouse in Caracas and seized seven tons of sugar hoarded by vendors unwilling to market the inventory at the official price.
Major private supermarkets suspended sales of beef earlier this week after one chain was shut down for 48 hours for pricing meat above government-set levels, but an agreement reached with the government on Wednesday night promises to return meat to empty refrigerator shelves.
Needless to say, middlemen and price gougers are being blamed. But consider the situation in beef:
Gonzalo Asuaje, president of the meat processors association Afrigo, said that costs and demand have surged but in four years the government has barely raised the price of beef, which now stands at $1.82 per pound. Simply getting beef to retailers now costs $2.41 per pound without including any markup, he said.
"They want to sell it at the same price the cattle breeder gets for his cow," he said. "It's impossible."
Hat tip: Joseph Crowle