Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela faces beer drought after Polar brewery closures

Union members of Polar's beer factory take part in a demonstration in Caracas 2 July 2015
Image caption Union members of Polar's beer factory have taken part in a demonstration in Caracas

Venezuela is facing the prospect of a national beer shortage because of striking workers at two breweries.

Unions linked to President Nicolas Maduro have forced the closure over a pay dispute with the brewer Polar.

The company makes up to 80% of Venezuela's beer. Half of their breweries are now shut, with others already running at reduced capacity.

For the past years there have been shortages of milk, toilet paper and medicines in Venezuela.

In previous disputes, the government has threatened to nationalise Polar.

Workers are striking at Polar's breweries in Caracas and Anzoategui state, as well as at 16 distribution centres.

The striking unions say that pay is at the heart of the dispute.

"They've delayed our collective contract for over 20 months, and the company refuses to recognise our union," spokesman Jose Rojas told Reuters news agency.

Venezuela has strict controls on the cost of food and hygiene products to guarantee that the poor can afford basic goods. However, some analysts say that these controls contribute to food and material shortages.

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