Bolivian President Threatens to Nationalize Sugar Growers

Latin American Herald Tribune, La Paz - President Evo Morales warned that he will nationalize sugar refineries whose owners try “to sabotage the Bolivian people” by selling their product at elevated prices in Bolivia’s domestic market.

“If some owners of sugar refineries continue selling their sugar more cheaply abroad and more dearly (domestically), I will see myself forced to nationalize ... those factories, without any fear,” Morales said.

The president reiterated the need to have state-run sugar factories “so that the private ones are not sabotaging or blackmailing the Bolivian people by selling their sugar more cheaply abroad and more dearly in Bolivia.”

Four sugar refineries operate in the eastern region of Santa Cruz and one in the southern province of Tarija, and the government has plans to establish one in the south and another in the north of La Paz province.

Annual sugar production, according to government estimates, is about 450,000 tons and domestic consumer demand is about 300,000 tons, leaving a surplus of 150,000 tons for export.

The Morales administration in February decreed a temporary prohibition on sugar exports with the aim of guaranteeing the domestic supply and halting the increase in price for that commodity.

Producers had threatened not to begin this year’s harvest if the prohibition was maintained, arguing that they would have to harvest and process less sugar cane if the surplus could not be exported.

After negotiations, the government and the sugar growers agreed that the restriction will be lifted in April to coincide with the start of the harvest.

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