Venezuelan beer lovers got some relief this week when the brewers' association announced that national beer companies have come up with enough dollars to import the supplies needed to keep taps open and prevent the country from running out of cerveza —at least temporarily .
In a press release issued Thursday, Venezuela’s Chamber for Beer Producers (CAVEFACE) said that brewers have worked “jointly” with the government over the past 30 days to replenish dwindling stocks of barley, malt and other imported supplies. The brewers basically convinced the government to loan them an unspecified amount of U.S. dollars so they can import the supplies.
“In record time we have managed to pay international suppliers for [new] shipments” the chamber said in its statement. “The government paid for this up-front.”
Currency controls in Venezuela force businesses to purchase U.S. dollars from the government to import foreign goods. But with the price of oil plummeting, the petro-dependent nation has been running out of dollars to sell to many businesses, including breweries.
Earlier this month CAVEFACE warned that beer production in Venezuela would grind to a halt in August if breweries weren't able to get the dollars they needed to restock supplies.
The trade group did not specify how long the new batch of imports will last, but said Venezuelan breweries still owe international suppliers more than $200 million in arrears.
CAVEFACE says that two major beer plants will have to suspend operations temporarily, but the drought will just be for a few days because the new supplies are expected to arrive by mid-August.
Beer is only the latest staple in short supply in the Bolivarian nation. Venezuelans regularly form long queues for toilet paper, shampoo, and powdered milk, among many other basic items missing from store shelves due to the cash-strapped government's failure to allocate dollars.
Price controls, expropriations, economic uncertainty and a "Dutch Disease" oil economy have discouraged companies from investing in local production, forcing Venezuela to become increasingly dependent on imports.
On Thursday, the government expropriated a warehouse complex rented by Pepsi, Nestle and Polar, Venezuela’s largest beer producer. The government claims it needs the warehouses to make room for a public housing project.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.