(Recasts with details of new price controls)
CARACAS, April 24 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s government on Friday announced new price controls on food products, the first time it has done so in two years, as the coronavirus outbreak and an acute gasoline shortage cause inflation to accelerate.
New figures released on the Venezuelan central bank’s website on Friday showed inflation rose 124% during the first quarter of 2020, and 13.3% in March. The opposition-controlled National Assembly earlier this month said its own data showed March inflation was 21.2%.
The socialist government last year relaxed enforcement of price controls, which had been in place for nearly two decades, to allow the private sector to play a greater role in the import and sale of goods in the face of U.S. sanctions.
But Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said the government was now imposing “supervised sales” on 27 products at food producers in order to limit price increases. Rodriguez said food company Polar, Venezuela’s largest private firm, would be subject to the controls, along with another local company, Plumrose.
The government would also take control of private firm Coposa for 180 days to guarantee production, Rodriguez said.
Venezuela is in a sixth year of a hyperinflationary economic collapse, which economists attribute to rampant money-printing to cover gaping fiscal deficits and heavy state intervention in the economy.
President Nicolas Maduro frequently blames U.S. sanctions and alleged opposition sabotage for the country’s woes. (Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Mayela Armas; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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