Venezuela has just been included by the Food and Agricultural Administration, FAO, in a group of 38 countries that are meeting the food supply targets of the millennium. Mr. Nicolas Maduro has trumpeted this inclusion as proof of the success of the regime in attaining food sovereignty. FAO’s decision took the country by surprise since it coincided with food shortages rarely (or never) seen before. Venezuelans have always been suspicious about the reliability of the Venezuelan Institute of Statistics and this apparent incongruence tended to exacerbate it. As one of the unbelievers I consulted the publications of the FAO on Venezuela and found out that the last version of the Nutrition Country Profile on Venezuela was dated… 2000. See: ftp://ftp.fao.org/ag/agn/nutrition/ncp/ven.pdf . No help there.
I went into the 360 page- FAO yearbook for 2013, see http://www.fao.org/economic/ess/ess-publications/ess-yearbook/en/#.Ud3OoL7D9LM and found numerous tables listing agricultural and economic indices for all member countries, including some data on Venezuela’s agricultural and food production performance. What I found is not specific enough to validate or question the decision made by the FAO in connection with Venezuela but suggests that Venezuelan agricultural statistics should be carefully re-examined. The report indicates that:
· Crop land dedicated to agriculture in Venezuela is quite low, between 0.01 and 0.05 hectares per capita
· Venezuela did not present any data to FAO on the share of agriculture in its GDP, the only country in South America that did not do so
· Similarly, Venezuela did no present statistics on number of tractors existing in the sector, or pesticides employed, or on the very important amount of government expenditure in agriculture
· People employed in the sector is very low, less than 10% of total employment
· Foreign investment in agriculture in Venezuela is listed as nil
· The value of Venezuelan domestic food production per capita is the lowest in South America after El Salvador, at $214.
These are not positive indications but there is a statistic that looks great for Venezuela, the percentage of the so-called “Prevalence of food inadequacy”. It is listed as the lowest in South America, at 6.4 per cent, lower than in Argentina (14.5%), Chile (10%), Colombia (20%) , Ecuador (30%), all of which are much more agricultural-oriented countries than Venezuela. Now, this is strongly counter-intuitive, especially in light of the acute food shortages Venezuelans are experiencing. According to the FAO report Venezuela is the South American country with the lowest risk of inadequate food supply. It does not make much sense in light of the impressionistic evidence.
The maps in the report also show Venezuela as a strong producer of rice, milk and meat. However, the Venezuelan Rice Growers Federation says that the country imported almost 50% of its rice needs in 2012, see: http://www.reportearroz.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=6435:nota-de-prensa-fevearroz&Itemid=36 . Similar import figures apply to meat and other fundamental items in the Venezuela diet.
What is going on here? The FAO representative in Caracas, Mr. Marcelo Resend, could clarify this for us. He can be reached at FAO-VE@fao.org