Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuelan government weighs in on ice-cream shop row

People stand in line to buy food at a state-run street market in Caracas in this 13 November, 2014 file photo. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Scarcity of some staple foods has led to long queues at markets and shops in Venezuela

The Venezuelan tourism ministry has denied reports that a shortage of milk is behind the closure of a famous ice-cream shop in the city of Merida.

The shop, called Coromoto, is famous for offering more than 850 flavours of ice cream ranging from beer to beans.

It announced on Facebook on 26 December that it would be closing "for the high season due to a lack of milk".

But the ministry says there is no shortage of ingredients and that other local ice-cream shops remain open.

Scarcity

Venezuela, which depends on imports for many products, is experiencing shortages of some staples, such as corn oil and powdered milk.

According to the latest official figures released by Venezuela's central bank, the scarcity index stood at 29,4% in March.

This suggests that out of 100 goods, 29 were not always available everywhere at the time.

While this does not mean that Venezuelans cannot get access to food, it does mean that they may have to go to different supermarkets and search over several days to get everything on their shopping list.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Venezuelan government has seized warehouses it says were used to hoard goods for contraband

Critics of socialist President Nicolas Maduro say government mismanagement is behind the scarcity.

The government blames unscrupulous businesspeople, who it says hoard goods to drive up prices.

Officials also point to the fact that up to 40% of goods Venezuela subsidises for its domestic market are being smuggled into neighbouring Colombia, further exacerbating the shortages.

In a statement published on its website (in Spanish), the tourism ministry said on Monday that "despite the manipulation spread by a number of national and international media and the sign posted by the Coromoto ice-cream shop, in which they blame their closure on a 'lack of ingredients', paradoxically the rest of these businesses is serving more and more tourists and residents as they have all that's needed to prepare ice cream".

The statement goes on to quote the managers of two ice-cream shops in Merida who say they are open for business.

More on this story