Venezuela’s largest beer manufacturer Polar Bear shut down two of its breweries due to lack of imported barley and the involvement of its parent company Empresas Polar in a dispute with the government, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Venezuela currently faces chronic shortage of raw materials, which the businesses have blamed on the socialist government’s economic policies.
The beer-making subsidiary of the local food giant is planning to suspend operations at two of its six plants. While President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the company for hoarding goods, Empresas Polar has denied the allegations.
The company's move comes as the government occupied its warehouse complex in the capital Caracas -- which is also used by Nestlé S.A. and PepsiCo Inc. -- late Wednesday, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The government defended its move of taking over the Caracas complex by saying that the land was needed to build new houses for the poor.
On Thursday, Polar condemned the occupation of the building and asked the government to reconsider its decision, arguing that the move disrupted the company’s supply chain in the capital. "We're not questioning the desire to build homes, which are so necessary, but we wonder why there is this need to disrupt active industrial facilities," Polar executive Manuel Felipe Larrazabal said, according to the AP.
Some of the 650 workers at the Polar facility held protests against the move, while supporters of the government staged a counter-protest outside the complex.
Andres Alegrett, a Nestlé spokesman, reportedly said that the company was informed by the facility’s owner about the area being taken over by the government and that it was finding new ways of distributing goods.
Polar is not only embroiled in a dispute with the Venezuelan government, but also its union members, who are demanding a hike in their pay. However, the company reportedly has the support of local residents in the clash with the government. "I want them to build, but not to drive Polar out. That's where a lot of my neighbors work," Luis Ignacio Moreno told the AP.
Earlier this month, the head of Venezuela's liquor store federation had warned that the country was about to run out of beer because the brewers have reached “zero hour.” He blamed the shortage of raw materials, and was later detained for unknown reasons.