Venezuela's largest beer company suspends work at 2 plants

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's largest beer manufacturer is shutting some of its plants because of a lack of imported barley.

The federation of beer brewers announced Thursday that the beer-making subsidy of Empresas Polar will suspend operations at two of its six plants due to the shortage.

Polar is Venezuela's largest privately held company and distributes a majority of the country's beer. The closures could affect a quarter of domestic beer production, according to the federation, which also said the plants could start gearing up again as soon as next month if raw materials come through as expected.

Venezuela is grappling with chronic shortages of staples including cooking oil, toilet paper and sugar that businesses blame on the socialist government's economic policies.

President Nicolas Maduro has accused Polar of sabotaging the economy by hoarding goods and intentionally creating shortages, a charge the company has denied.

Polar has also been is embroiled in a dispute with union workers demanding pay raises. Members of some of the dozens of unions representing Polar workers have shut down breweries and limited distribution of the small bottles of light beer that are favored in Venezuela.

While there are no signs of shortages on shelves so far, the company says it is struggling to get deliveries to the central part of Venezuela.

Earlier this month, the head of Venezuela's liquor store federation warned that the nation was about to run out of beer because producers had reached "zero hour" amid widespread shortages in raw materials. Days later, he was detained for reasons that remain unclear.