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Venezuela’s Coffee Conundrum

Venezuela’s Coffee Conundrum

By: Simone Baribeau –

A North American coming to Caracas is liable to think there’s a coffee shortage in the best of times. To those who are accustomed to a 12 oz. “tall” cup of joe being the smallest available size, the immensely popular Venezuelan cafecito, smaller than your average shot of tequila, seems an anomaly. But these coffees, which cost Bs 300—about 15 cents—are, for many Venezuelans of all income levels, a daily treat.

Or, rather, they have been. But some see the ongoing dispute between the Venezuelan government and coffee retailers as a threat to their morning ritual. In December, protests by coffee farmers had led the government increase the price of raw coffee beans approximately two-fold, but not the corresponding retail value, leaving coffee processors saying that they would be forced to sell at a loss.

Instead of doing that, the coffee processors decided, they would withhold the coffee in protest of what they considered to be unfair government controls. A month later, after National Guard raids of coffee warehouses and a presidential threat of coffee industry nationalization, the government is reported to be considering raising coffee retail prices in the coming days.

In the meantime, however, many Caraqueños (as Caracas residents are called) don’t seem to be having a problem getting their daily coffee fix. Coffee beans are no longer available in almost any supermarket, but cafés still sell the brew and vendors still greet morning commuters with the welcomed call of “Café!” And, for the most part, prices to consumers haven’t changed.

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