Maduro rebukes Kellogg for leaving Venezuela

Country's president pledges to turn unit over to workers

People queue up outside a public supermarket's doors in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela, in April 2015. (iStock/Getty Images)

Caracas/Valencia | Reuters — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blasted U.S.-based cereal maker Kellogg Co. on Tuesday for pulling out of the country due to the economic crisis and vowed to hand over the company’s factory to workers.

At a campaign rally ahead of Sunday’s presidential election, which Maduro is expected to win, the president called Kellogg’s move illegal and told cheering supporters that Venezuelans’ favourite cereal would continue to be produced.

“We’ve begun judicial proceedings against the business leaders of Kellogg’s because their exit is unconstitutional,” Maduro said.

“I’ve taken the decision to deliver the company to the workers in order that they can continue producing for the people.”

Kellogg announced its retreat earlier on Tuesday, making it the latest multinational to exit the oil-rich country, which is heaving under hyperinflation and strict price controls.

“In December of 2016, Kellogg deconsolidated its Venezuela business from the company’s results. The current economic and social deterioration in the country has now prompted the company to discontinue operations,” Kellogg said in a statement.

Kellogg did not specify the difficulties it was facing in Venezuela, but companies have typically been struggling to find raw materials due to product shortages and currency controls that crimp imports.

Kellogg did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Maduro’s plans to hand its local unit over to workers.

The company in its statement warned against sales of its products or brands in Venezuela “without the expressed authorization of the Kellogg Company,” adding that it would like to return to Venezuela in the future.

Maduro’s government also stops companies from raising prices to keep up with hyperinflation, denting profits and sometimes rendering operations unsustainable.

The closure is not expected to significantly worsen food shortages in Venezuela, but it was a further blow to morale for many Venezuelans as Kellogg’s is the most popular and available cereal in the country.

Stunned workers were barred from entering Kellogg’s plant in the central city of Maracay and massed outside, seeking information, local business sources said.

Other multinational companies that have given up on the OPEC country, abandoning assets or selling them cheap, include Clorox, Kimberly-Clark, General Mills, General Motors and Harvest Natural Resources.

Venezuelans are struggling under quintuple-digit annual inflation and millions suffer food and medicine shortages. Even so, Maduro is expected to win re-election on Sunday in a vote the main opposition coalition says is a sham.

Maduro blames Venezuela’s crisis on an “economic war” he says is waged by Washington, greedy businessmen and coup-mongers.

Reporting for Reuters by Corina Pons and Tibisay Romero; writing by Alexandra Ulmer and Girish Gupta.

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  • Monkeeworks

    Darn !! Just when Maduro was about to nationalize the company. Which he just did anyway.

  • Debbie Poirier

    Kellog couldn’t make a go of it because they can’t make a profit under price controls and shortages of raw materials that are expensive and in short supply. This is the way with communism, no incentive or reason to work at something when there is no reward. Now Maduro will turn the plant over to the workers? Good luck with that! It won’t be those in charge of the plant but the workers themselves that will have no incentive to work because they probably won’t make enough to be able to feed their families. Like everything Maduro nationalized, it will fail. Even the state run oil company is failing miserably. Major industries that have been nationalized are now suing the government and winning billions of dollars like Conoco Phillips who are now making off with over 600 million in oil equipment.

COPA Medallion COPA finalist in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
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