June 1, 2016 / 7:22 PM / 2 years ago

Venezuela brewer Polar to restart beer production in July

CARACAS, June 1 (Reuters) - Venezuelan brewer and food producer Empresas Polar said on Wednesday it will resume beer production in July after halting operations in April for lack of malted barley amid chronic shortages in the cash-strapped OPEC nation.

Polar said it has been unable to obtain dollars for imports through the socialist government’s currency controls, which economists widely describe as the cause of shortages of consumer goods ranging from vital medicines to staple food products.

The company, a frequent target of criticism by President Nicolas Maduro, said it had obtained a $35 million loan from Spanish bank BBVA that will allow it to import barley and hops needed for brewing.

“We have been analyzing ways to reactivate our beer production and we came across this temporary solution that will allow us to produce until the end of 2016,” Polar President Lorenzo Mendoza said in a statement.

Maduro frequently has made personalized attacks against Mendoza, accusing him of hoarding products and idling factories to weaken his government as part of an “economic war” backed by Washington that is meant to remove him from office.

Mendoza has denied those accusations.

The government requires companies to sell staple goods at regulated prices that are well below what they fetch on the street and at times below production cost, limiting incentives to produce and spurring lucrative cross-border smuggling.

Polar, which has historically made about 80 percent of the beer consumed in Venezuela, also makes popular brands of cooking oil and corn flour used in the country’s traditional “arepa” corn pancakes.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Diane Craft

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