Venezuela is part of the WTO, the World Bank, the CEPALC: Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the ALADI: Latin American Integration Association, the MCCA (CACM): Central American Common Market. It has signed the Promotion and Protection of Investment Agreement of 1993, and is a partner of MERCOSUR. The country withdrew from the Andean Community, which brings together several countries of the Southern Cone, in 2006.
Non Tariff Barriers
Some export controls are seldom used. Some mineral resources may be controlled when exported. Re-export of equipment goods is normally not allowed except if the import is temporary. Import licenses are rarely obligatory, but some products are subject to an import license: firearms and explosives require an import license from the Ministry of the Interior. Import certificates are required for certain products subject to special control. All foodstuffs and agricultural imports are subject to obtaining health and phytosanitary certificates to be allowed to be exported. Medicines, food products and cosmetics need to be registered with the Ministry of Health. If alcohol products are imported, a label has to be fixed around the corking system of the bottle. Imported cigarettes must also undergo this procedure.
For further information, visit the website of the Commission for Currency Administration.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Import taxes Customs duties are contained between 5 and 20% (there are certain exceptions like private vehicles: 35%). On average: 12%. The tax on wholesale transactions is 16.5% (on CIF price + import duty + Customs charges). In the free zone of Margarita, this duty is applied only to services. The duty on luxury products ranges from 10 to 20% , depending on the product. This duty is calculated on the result of the wholesale tax mentioned above. There is a specific tax for oil products and their derivatives. The import of private second-hand or new vehicles, but not pertaining to the current year, is prohibited except for a private person within the framework of his changing residence, and it is the same for second-hand clothes or used tires. The import of pork meat and its derivatives is prohibited. Within the framework of the WTO, compensatory duties are established on basic agrifood products: milk, certain cheeses, cereals... Dumping duties are applicable to some products such as jeans originating from China.
Venezuelan Customs requires that all documents are in Spanish. The invoice must be the typewritten original, not a photocopy. The manifest of importation and declaration of value (bill of lading) must be in quadruplicate. The following documents are required: commercial invoice; bill of lading or airway bill; packing list; certificate of origin; and special certificates or permits when required (e.g., phytosanitary or quality standards certificates). Exporters should consult with the Venezuelan importer regarding what documentation is required in addition to the invoice.
Exporters should quote CIF and Free on Board (FOB) prices for Venezuela. Insurance and freight must be listed separately on the invoice. The invoice must be in duplicate and list both the value per unit and the total value of the shipment. The description of the merchandise must include the appropriate tariff number, which the importer can supply. To simplify the import process for a large amount of cargo for one project, there should be a single declaration for all items, and each item should be then listed separately with its respective tariff number. Some Venezuelan importers engage in over-invoicing to acquire foreign currency at the official exchange rate. This is illegal under Venezuelan law.
Exporters are encouraged to follow the instructions of the importer and, for products requiring registration (food, pharmaceuticals, perfume), to ensure that the steps have been taken prior to shipment. Overall, the procedures are rather slow and the Venezuelan importer has to provide a number of documents by cooperating with the exporter.
Despite being a country rich in natural resources, the political and economic situation has been deteriorating dramatically in recent years. Since early 2014, public frustration has been steadily rising over shortages of basic consumer goods and skyrocketing inflation. The country’s GDP is expected to contract 10% in 2021, after shrinking an estimated 30% in 2020 (IMF). The increase in poverty, food shortages, inflation, and insecurity was undeniable, to the point of surpassing all the previous forecasts. Inflation is out of control: it worsened in 2020 reaching 6,500% (IMF). According to the results of a Survey on Living Conditions (ENCOVI) carried out by the main universities of the country, starving Venezuelans lost on average more than 11 kilos during 2017. In 2020, 94% of respondents said that family income is not sufficient to cover the cost of living and 80% said that they received food assistance. According to the same survey, 96% of Venezuelan households are now living in poverty (2020). It also notes that extreme poverty was 13% lower in 2018. The report on the global state of food security and nutrition of FAO detailed that Venezuelans are experiencing the highest rate of malnutrition in recent years.
Venezuelans are experiencing a dramatic economic and social crisis, with a shortage of basic products and hyperinflation. The informal market has now become predominant, and the Survey on Living Conditions estimated that the informal economy absorbs 45% of employment (Encovi 2019-2020). Due to the situation, many foreign companies decided to cease operations in Venezuela, while the devaluation of the national currency made it practically impossible to import goods from abroad. In turn, stores’ shelves are getting more and more counterfeited products, mainly of Chinese origin. The crisis in Venezuela has also degraded society to the point of becoming the most violent country in Latin America, with a homicide rate of 60.3 per 100,000 inhabitants (the highest in the world) in 2020 according to the NGO Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia (OVV). Due to the abovementioned factors, shopping habits have changed, focusing nowadays mostly on day-to-day grocery shopping.
An ongoing, severe economic crisis in Venezuela has led to three years of consecutive, double digit economic contraction and contributed to falling foreign agricultural product exports to Venezuela, down 42% in CY 2017 (January through October) to $376 million compared to the same time period a year before (GATS). Agricultural product importers are severely challenged by a Venezuelan economy in crisis with hyperinflation and extreme Venezuelan Central Bank restrictions to accessing foreign currency. Even though no official figures from the Central Bank are available, 2017 end-of-year estimates of inflation reached 720% according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Venezuela’s retail food sector is serviced by both the public and private sectors. However, the system for the Government to distribute retail food products is winding down from the closure of the public operated Mercado de Alimentos C.A. (Spanish acronym: MERCAL) that includes the retail chain Abastos Bicentenario.
The Venezuelan private sector retailers include Central Madeirense, Excelsior Gama, Plazas, Sigo, Makro, Flor, Frontera, Unicasa, Luvebras, El Patio and Garzon. Most of the major domestic supermarket chains belong to the Venezuelan National Supermarket Association (Spanish acronym: ANSA). In 2017, there were about 6 363 supermarkets, or points of sale, in Venezuela selling foods and beverages. In addition, there are 136 906 traditional abastos or bodegas, similar to corner stores. Corner stores dominate retail sales in the predominantly middle and low-income neighborhoods throughout Venezuelan cities and towns. Pharmacies that offer foods and beverages had also been growing rapidly in the last decade. The store layouts now include aisles dedicated to food and beverages. The four major pharmacies are SAAS (208 stores in 2016), Farmatodo (170 stores), Farmahorro (114 stores) and Locatel (66 stores). These pharmacies are members of ANSA.
Since January 2003, the GBRV has imposed price control policies on basic foodstuffs and processed food products. The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (Spanish acronym: MAT), Ministry of Food (Spanish acronym: MINPAL), Ministry of Commerce (Spanish acronym: MINCOMERCIO), and the Ministry of Finance (Spanish acronym: MINFINANZAS) are responsible for recommending changes to the controlled-price list.
Venezuela's mass retail network consists of the following:
333 hypermarkets and supermarkets that are part of chain stores
6,030 independent supermarkets
12,460 beverage retailers
136,906 neighborhood grocery stores
The main chains are Makro (35 stores) and San Diego (19 stores) in the hypermarket field as well as Central Madeirense (57 stores) and Excelsior Gamma (26 stores) for super and hypermarkets.
By the end of 2017, Venezuela had a population of 32.38 million people, out of which 17.18 million were Internet users, placing the penetration rate at 53.1%. According to America Retail, use of mobile devices in 2017 grew 13% compared to 2016. IPYS Venezuela determined Venezuelans' navigation of the Internet at an average 1.61 Mbps, the slowest speed in Latin America. Overall connectivity problems and low connection speeds are common in Venezuela. There are frequent internet service failures in the country, and poor quality connections hinder reliable Internet access. Additionally, different parts of the country suffer constant service breakdowns that tend to last for several hours. Digital conditions are further aggravated by the Government's attempts to censor dissenting opinions on the Internet, particularly blocking access to Tor, an encrypted network that allows users to browse the web anonymously. As of 2017, Internet in Venezuela is considered "Not Free", due to the growing access obstacles, arbitrary censorship, and deteriorating user rights, which have intensified with the country’s deepening unrest. Casetel warns that the sector may collapse due to the lack of investment to renew the technological infrastructure, the lack of access to foreign currency and user cancellation. As of July 2018, the most popular browser in the country by market share was Chrome (78.3%), followed by Firefox (8.33%), Opera (3.6%), Safari (3.24%), Android (2.82%) and Internet Explorer (1.15%). As for search engines, Google (94.98%) dominated the market, followed by Yahoo (3.38%) and Bing (1.48%).
While increased Internet penetration would suggest expected e-commerce growth, the economic crisis and government restrictions on foreign exchange for online purchases have had a negative impact. According to Euromonitor International, approximately 60% of the retail stores that existed in 2012 were closed in 2017. Still, even though the country faces high inflation rates and lagging salaries, which hurt the purchasing power of the majority of Venezuelans, people still shop online. According to America Retail, 1.77 million Internet users made an online purchase in Venezuela in 2017, an 8% increase compared to 2016. Many Venezuelans increasingly rely on credit cards as a way of dealing with rapid inflation, making it a popular payment method among online shoppers. The most popular product category among Venezuelans is consumer appliances and electronics. The lack of product availability makes it difficult to generate online grocery sales, and in general there is a notable lack of companies operating in internet retailing. Locatel, FarmaPlus, and Farmatodo developed platforms to track medicines given their scarcity in Venezuela. A significant number of Venezuelans don't have bank accounts, and the country's Internet infrastructure is poor, which are two big barriers for e-commerce growth. Some of the most popular e-stores in Venezuela include Mercado Libre, Amazon, and OLX.
Organizing Goods Transport
Main Useful Means of Transport
The road network is very widespread and a lot of goods transit by truck. Goods travel by plane or by boat from La Guaira, Puerto Cabello or Maracaibo. Basic industrial products pass through Matanzas and Puerto Ordaz. Oil and gas by Amuay, Puerto la Cruz, Punta Cardon, El Tablazo, Bajo Grande and La Salina.
The oil industry, representing 80% of the exports, also represents 50% of fiscal returns and 25% of the total GDP. Despite stagnating production, the prices on the international market are rising in this sector. The concern is however that in the coming years we will see a deterioration of the oil infrastructures: the striking increase of the governmental taxation of oil company PDVSA's profits leaves it with few means to maintain its costly infrastructure or to continue prospecting in areas that are difficult to reach.
The manufacturing sector alone provides 20% of the GDP. This sector is impeded by the lack of private investment. Main productions are iron work and aluminium work, textile and clothing, which have been growing for several years. These are dynamic sectors driven by exports, by the improving productivity and by the restarting of interior consumption. Food preparation is hampered by the growth of imports and by the price control imposed by the government on products of vital need. Cement and automobile industries are dynamic branches and the State encourages investment in this sector.
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