More than a commercial transaction, it is a political and strategic gesture that puts on the table the renewed binational relationship and the weight of Monomeros for both countries.
The Colombian ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, announced this Friday that his country will receive a ship with a total of 16,000 tons of urea from the neighboring country in the next few hours.
The news was confirmed through the social networks of the diplomat, who announced that the ship would dock in the port of Barranquilla with the cargo, with no less information: “They charge us 600 dollars a ton. In the market, the ton is between 730 and 930 dollars,” said Benedetti.
Beyond the savings mentioned by the Colombian government, the announcement of the acquisition has a more important background: a definitive step towards commercial normalization between the two governments and a clear message about the management of one of Venezuela’s strategic assets.
In the next few hours a ship will arrive at the port of Barranquilla, which I managed on behalf of the president @petrogustavo, with more than 16 thousand tons of urea from Venezuela. They charge us 600 USD per ton. On the market, the ton is between 730 and 930 USD.
— Armando Benedetti (@AABenedetti) September 23, 2022
The monomers question
Urea is the most widely used nitrogenous fertilizer in the world, due to its high nitrogen content, which favors plant growth. It is ideal for the production of items such as rice, corn, sorghum, potatoes, fruit trees and vegetables.
Colombia’s announcement of making the purchase from Venezuela occurs in the midst of controversy over the company Monomeros, located in Barranquilla, which until a few years ago provided more than half of all the urea needed for food production in that country.
However, since 2019, the previous Government of Ivan Duque put Monomeros in the hands of Juan Guaido, a former deputy who proclaimed himself in a square as “interim president” of Venezuela, stripping Caracas of a key company for the supply of fertilizers in Colombia. And what seemed like a purely political move turned into a disaster.
That dispossession was not only ineffective in the strategy of forcing regime change in Venezuela, but also meant a blow to the Colombian countryside -which now pays the triple by fertilizers – and a breeding ground to put Monomeros on the verge of bankruptcy. The collapse of the Guaido administration was such that the company had to be intervened.
With the arrival of Petro to power, last August, the president promised to return the company to its legitimate owners and rebuild relations with Venezuela, at a time when food prices are rising worldwide and access to fertilizers is difficultespecially because of the conflict in Ukraine.
In this context, Venezuela has taken a step forward announcing that it is ready to sell fertilizers in the region. “In urea we already have not only (national) supply, but we also have export capacity,” Tareck El Aissami, Sectoral Vice President of Economy and Minister of People’s Power for Oil, detailed last August.
The completion of the purchase of urea by Colombia not only reaffirms the will to normalize trade relations with its neighbor, but it is a small but important step for the Venezuelan economy, punished for years by US sanctions.
The announcement is made official the same week that the president of the Petrochemical Company of Venezuela (Pequiven), Peter Techellea, visited the Monomeros headquarters in Barranquilla to inspect the status of the company. After a tour of the facilities, the official promised to return the prestige to the firm and denounced that the objective of its previous managers had been to bankrupt it.
For now, the Venezuelan authorities have asked Interpol for the arrest and capture of 23 people, appointed by Guaido at the head of Monomeros, for having usurped the functions, while an exemption from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC, for its acronym in English) of the US Department of the Treasury. Which, for the time being, allows it to operate until 2023 regardless of the unilateral coercive measures against Caracas.
Although administrative steps are still needed for the company to be operational again in the hands of the Maduro government, the Petro administration is not willing to wait much longer to stock up on fertilizers, since it is not capable of producing them.
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