For a country on the brink of famine, Venezuela is seeing a disturbing amount of food going to waste.

About 60 000 tons a month, or 13% of national consumption, isn’t being consumed mostly because of fuel shortages that prevent farmers from collecting and distributing food, according to data from producers and distributors.

About 21% of food produced in the first six months of the year won’t be eaten, according to a study led by Venezuela’s agricultural engineers’ association and the chamber of food producers. While that’s still below levels in some developed countries, it’s an alarming statistic given the International Crisis Group says Venezuela is on the verge of famine.

Fuel is still too scarce or too expensive for farmers to properly collect and distribute their produce, said Lopez.

The situation threatens to worsen malnutrition figures, as one-third of the population is already estimated to be food insecure and in need of attention by the World Food Programme.

Other challenges — such as lockdowns that block farmers from reaching the capital and a lack of credit to continue producing — are keeping food from reaching supermarkets.

”When we have a complex humanitarian emergency, every ton of food determines whether someone can eat,” said Saul Lopez, who heads the agricultural engineers’ association.

Nicolas Maduro’s regime has been battling fuel shortages since March, when a combination of mismanagement at refineries and U.S. sanctions reduced production and imports of gasoline to virtually zero. While shipments from Iran have restocked gas stations, the shortages caused major disruptions to an already frail food distribution network.

© 2020 Bloomberg