Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Monday, 3 August 2009 17:25 UK

Venezuela seizes coffee companies

Government inspectors check rice packaging inside the private plant of Polar industries in Calabozo, Venezuela - file photo
There have been inspections of privately owned food producers

The Venezuelan government has seized temporary control of the processing plants of two of the country's biggest coffee companies.

Officials said the measure was designed to guarantee supply to consumers.

They said the plants, Fama de America and Cafe Madrid, would be audited for any irregularities and could face nationalisation if these were proved.

In March, the government set quotas for 12 basic foods, including coffee, to be produced at regulated prices.

Venezuelan Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua said that the government would take control of the coffee plants for three months to allow an audit.

"If at the end of the audit, we can show there has been smuggling, hoarding, disloyal and monopolistic practices, we could consider nationalising the companies," he said.

The companies had said they would be forced to close because they were running low on supplies of coffee to be processed.

Earlier this year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the expropriation of a rice mill, owned by a subsidiary of US food giant Cargill, accusing the company of not distributing rice at government-set prices.

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