"It was a bit risky, but it worked for us": the surprising project of a "puntano" in Chavismo Venezuela

“It was a bit risky, but it worked for us”: the surprising project of a “puntano” in Chavismo Venezuela

The numbers were encouraging. In 2019, after talking with a friend about the pros and cons of producing in Venezuela, Sebastián García embarked on a flight to these lands. This meant, after living for several years in Argentina, returning to the country where he grew up and which he had to leave in 1998, a week after finishing high school and the death of his father. This time, he returns for a new bet: an investment project in the purchase and production of 300 own hectares in the west of the state of Guárico.

It was a bit risky, but it worked for us, we had a good experience.” Garcia pointed out that, in dialogue with THE NATION He told how it was in 2019 to arrive with an investment project in full chavismo.

“It is an under-exploited country in agriculture, with many needs for investment in machinery technology and [producción] agricultural, but with great potential and an interesting profitability and rapid amortization scenario”, he described.

Although for García it is a good opportunity, he clarified: “You always have to have your bags ready.”. Remember the old images of the late Hugo Chavez saying “expropriate! compared to private property.

At the moment they are not expropriating and the signs they are giving, with the vision they have now, is that they will continue in this way.. Just as investments pay off quickly, if it happens again in three years, you have already won,” he said.

Photo taken by García in a field west of the state of Guárico

García was born in Caracas, but claims to be an Argentinian “puntano”, like his mother Graciela. Strictly speaking, he lived in San Luis and completed his university studies as an agricultural engineer.

He followed in the footsteps of his father, Juan, a Spaniard who was an agricultural engineer and worked at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC). For this reason, at the time He did his primary and secondary education in Caracas, but after the death of his father, the family chose to return to Argentina.

In San Luis, after graduating and taking a specialization course in grain farming at UBA, he got his first job at SER Beef, a primary production, agricultural supply, animal feed and processing company. Angus genetics. “For me, it was a school. Then I opened and started planting by myself,” he claimed.

Although he is in Argentina, he is still in contact with his friends in Venezuela. Thanks to the networks, he even found with whom he shared high school in this country and later became his wife.

“I found a country with many needs, with a large percentage of closed businesses, but at that time measures were beginning to be taken which, during these three years, improved the situation., although there is still a lot of misery. I do not want to say that Venezuela was frozen, because it is very far from that, but there is a transformation within the economy and there are sectors which benefit from it; agriculture is part of it,” he explained of how he saw Venezuela when he returned for his project. Besides having his own production, he also advises other producers.

“Since 2018, a series of economic measures have been taken to promote agricultural production, government-controlled prices have been freed, exports and imports have been made more flexible, and agriculture has been exempted from all kinds of taxes. “, he added.

In Venezuela, less than 5% of the 20 million hectares with productive capacity are planted. This generates a shortage of raw materials and manufacturers are forced to import them and for this they pay the Chicago market price, plus freight and everything necessary to bring them into the country. Next, those who produce it in Venezuela can sell it at the international market value plus a differential, which averages $100 per ton,” he pointed out.

In this sense, he added: “Until three years ago, the producer received many government subsidies, but when the grain was sold, it was worthless.”

He explained that under this regime, agricultural activity “became a financial activity” and producers “put aside the search for more productivity”.

“This has led to an insufficiently exploited agricultural activity because there is no vision of agriculture as a trade, there are few producers and there is no extensive cultivation [de la producción]“, he remarked.

In this line, he said there was a lot of potential. “We have experiences with maize of 7,000 kilos in the central area of ​​the country, but its average is usually 3,000 kilos because there are still a lot of production problems. There is a lack of knowledge in crop management and investment in agricultural technology, both in terms of machinery and genetics,” he commented.

“Last year some 250,000 hectares of maize were planted and this year there is a prospect that some 400,000 will be planted. During this time, in soybeans, there was a production of around 7,000 hectares,” explained about the production in the country.

In Venezuela, land prices vary between US$500 and US$1,000 per hectare, depending on the region. And there are two property regimes: one with fields belonging to the National Land Institute, which belong to the state and are given in concession to the private sector, and another with “totally private” farms.

With rainfall ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 millimeters depending on the region, the soils to be produced have “good levels of nutrients”, although there are also lands that require a correction of their deficit. “It’s about working them”, he claimed.

“There is no problem getting fertilizer there, in fact there is domestic production. Urea in Venezuela is sold at US$200, while in Argentina it is at US$1,300 per tonne. There are also no withholding taxes, the problem is the lack of investment,” he said.

Lots of corn in the area where García produces
Lots of corn in the area where García produces

Among other difficulties, while warning that “there are no credits” nor the figure of the entrepreneur who provides services for production.

For this reason, Ariel Rossi Videla, a contractor Garcia met in Argentina, is about to travel to Venezuela to do the job. In this sense, in dialogue with THE NATION He said his idea in this country was to provide services with machinery imported from the United States, Mexico and Brazil. “I see a huge opportunity, I think it can grow. The problem is that there are no credits”.

Although both agree that there are “high profit margins”, they also say that in Venezuela, production is an activity that is done “with adrenaline”.

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