Venezuelan officials take control of farm supply company after Chavez orders expropriation

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Farm supply business expropriated in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan government officials took over management of a leading farm supply business Tuesday after President Hugo Chavez ordered the company to be expropriated.

Government officials arrived at the company’s main office in central Aragua state and were meeting with the board of directors, said Alejandro Giraud, a manager at Agroislena CA. He said officials also took control of the company’s stores and silos across the country.

Chavez signed a decree Monday night to expropriate the company, accusing it of speculating with prices and saying the state takeover will bring down farming production costs.

“The takeover has been relatively peaceful,” Giraud said. Workers held small protests in some areas opposing the expropriation.

Agroislena was founded in Venezuela more than 50 years ago by Spanish immigrants from the Canary Islands and has grown into a market leader with branches across the country.

The company says it has more than 1,200 employees, about 60 stores, eight grain silos, and several storage facilities. Giraud said the expropriation order also includes other affiliated businesses, which together with Agroislena employ more than 3,000 people.

Chavez, who has nationalized and expropriated a growing list of businesses in recent years, has said the government will pay the owners a fair price for the business.

The country’s main opposition coalition denounced the state takeover, saying it appeared to have been motivated by political aims. The Democratic Unity Table said in a statement that the expropriation completely defies “economic logic.”

It said that by having control of the business, it becomes “an enormous power for the government to monopolize supplies and create a huge dependence” in rural farming states that are important for Chavez’s political support.

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