1 Mar 2009

Chavez orders army to control rice processing plants

3:57 pm on 1 March 2009

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered the army to take control of all rice processing plants in the country in a dispute over prices.

Mr Chavez has not said whether the government intervention will be temporary or an initial step towards nationalisation.

He ordered the military intervention during a live address to the nation.

Mr Chavez said the measure was necessary as the processing companies were refusing to produce rice at the government's controlled prices.

He said if they tried to stop production he would expropriate them and pay nothing.

The government imposes price controls on basic products and frequently accuses private companies of hoarding food.

Venezuela grows enough rice for domestic consumption and exports a small amount.