Valencia, Venezuela – Despite living in an oil-rich country and making a decent salary, Leonardo Gonzalez often can't buy milk in Venezuela. Grocery stores are full of fine imported chocolates, Chilean wines and frozen fish, but basic staples including fresh milk, sugar and eggs are often unavailable.
"People should get as much milk as they wish to buy. That is how it used to be in Venezuela," Gonzalez, the purchasing manager at Kromi Market, a grocery store, told Al Jazeera. "Now, people just get what they can find."
Described as an "upper middle income country" by the World Bank, Venezuela wouldn't typically be associated with food shortages. A combination of price controls, factory expropriations and alleged "hoarding" by some companies have contributed to scarcity of some products.
"The problem began probably five years ago. Sometimes the situation improves, sometimes it gets really bad," Jose Quevedo, an employee at the Cotoperi Bakery in Valencia, Venezuela's third-largest city, told Al Jazeera. "We used to get six to seven packs of milk a day. Now we only get one to two packs daily, and mostly from unpopular brands." Skim milk is especially elusive, consumers say.