Venezuela’s demand for consumer-oriented products
from the United States has been growing rapidly over the
last years. Total exports of this category to Venezuela
in 2008 were US$150 million compared to US$35 million in
2003. In terms of volume, standards, prestige, and
quality, U.S. suppliers are seen by local importers,
distributors, and food processors as a reliable source
despite Venezuela’s complicated import system.
The name Venezuela originated from
the cartographer Amerigo Vespucci who, along
with Alonso de Ojeda, led a 1499 naval
expedition along the northwestern coast’s
Gulf of Venezuela. On reaching the Guajira
Peninsula, the crew observed villages (palafitos)
that the people had built over the water.
Because this reminded Vespucci of the city
of Venice, Italy, he named the region
Venezuela, meaning "little Venice."
Located in northern South America,
Venezuela boasts the continent’s largest
lake and third-longest river, the highest
waterfall in the world, the longest of all
snakes, and spectacular landscapes. There
are the Andes’ snowcapped peaks in the west;
steamy Amazonian jungles in the south; the
hauntingly beautiful Gran Sabana plateau,
with its strange, flat-topped mountains, in
the east; and miles of white-sand beaches
fringed with coconut palms on the Caribbean
coast. The country’s main petroleum deposits
are located around and beneath Lake
Maracaibo, the Gulf of Venezuela, and in the
Orinoco River basin.
The majority of Venezuela’s 28 million
people live in the cities of the north —
especially in the capital Caracas, which is
also the largest city — making Venezuela one
of the most urbanized Latin American
countries. Other major cities are Maracaibo,
Valencia, Maracay, Barquisimeto, Ciudad
Guayana, and the popular tourist city of
Because more women have entered Venezuela’s labor
force, food-purchasing patterns have changed. Venezuelan
consumers have become more interested in buying foods
that require little preparation time, and they are
demanding more of the following products:
- Snack foods
- Breakfast cereals
- Pancake mixes
- Dairy products
- Fresh fruits
- Processed fruits and vegetables
- Food ingredients
- Fruits and vegetables juices
- Tree nuts.
Venezuela’s Economic and Agricultural Trade Situation
Petroleum accounts for roughly a third of Venezuela’s
gross domestic product, around 80 percent of exports,
and more than half of government revenues. With some of
the world’s largest oil and natural gas reserves,
Venezuela consistently ranks among the world’s top ten
crude oil producers.
Venezuela is a significant importer of agricultural
products, with imports reaching US$7.5 billion during
2008. Given the dominance of oil revenues, agriculture
production and food processing are a smaller part of the
Venezuelan economy. Much of Venezuela’s food is imported
as processed products, grains and oilseeds for the
livestock industry, or fruits and vegetables.
Colombia is the major supplier of agricultural
products to Venezuela, and imports are mostly high-value
products. There is also strong competition for
Venezuela’s food import market among exporters in
Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Venezuelan importers are
taking advantage of ALADI (Latin America Integration
Association) regulations to bring products without
foreign exchange restrictions that apply to other
countries. Additionally, Argentina and Chile have been
selling products (especially fresh fruits) aggressively
to Venezuela because both countries benefit from
duty-free preferential access.
U.S. agricultural and food exports during the past
five calendar years (2004–2008) have averaged US$691
million, with 2008 trade jumping to US$1.6 billion. The
main products currently imported from the United States,
by value, are wheat, corn, consumer-oriented, animal
fats, and vegetable oils.
Doing Business in Venezuela: Entry Strategy
U.S. exporters can approach Venezuelan buyers through
a large importer or wholesaler/distributor or through a
specialized importer. Regardless of strategy, U.S.
exporters need a local partner to educate and update
them about market consumer trends and development,
product registration procedures, and business practices.
Wholesalers/distributors and importers play an
important role with Venezuela’s supermarket retailers.
Although some supermarkets have tried to import through
consolidators, the bulk of supplies come from local
agents or importers. Large supermarket retailers are
more likely to import directly from U.S. suppliers.
Local importers are a must when selling U.S. food
exports to Venezuela’s convenience stores or traditional
retail outlets. Because there is relatively little
turnover, retailers in these markets are not interested
in buying directly from exporters or through
The following reports provide more information about
importing to Venezuela: