Venezuela Catholic Church 'running out of wine'

Communal cups (27/05/2013) Venezuela's Catholic Church says it has communal wine for just two months

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The Catholic Church in Venezuela has said it is running out of wine to celebrate Mass because of nationwide shortages of basic supplies.

It said the scarcity of some products had forced the country's "only wine maker" to stop selling to the Church.

Critics blame the shortages on tight state control of the economy and inadequate domestic production.

But the government insists that an opposition-led conspiracy and price speculations are the problem.

"[Our supplier] Bodegas Pomar have told us that they can no longer make wine because they're facing difficulties," Church spokesman Monsignor Lucker told BBC News.

Some of the items the supplier had to import to make the wine were now scarce, said the spokesman.

Monsignor Lucker added that they had enough supplies for just two more months, and that he did not know if the Church could afford wines from abroad.

But the problem was not limited to wine, he said.

"The makers of consecrated bread have told us that they'll have to raise prices because they can't find enough flour.

"Wheat is not grown here - it all comes from abroad," he said.

"A packet of consecrated bread used to cost 50 bolivar ($8, £5), but it's now 100."

Toilet paper shortages
People queuing to buy toilet paper at a supermarket in Caracas Many Venezuelans rushed to buy toilet paper after new stock arrivals

Oil-rich Venezuela relies on imports, but currency controls have restricted its ability to pay for foreign goods, a reason for the shortages.

Supplies of milk, sugar, cooking oil and corn flour - which is used to make Venezuela's national dish, arepas - are all affected, including sanitary items.

Last week, Venezuelan lawmakers approved plans to import millions of rolls of toilet paper, in an effort to relieve a chronic shortage.

BBC Mundo correspondent Abraham Zamorano, in the capital, Caracas, says many Venezuelans are wondering why this is happening to a self-proclaimed rich country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world.

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