Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has ordered the expropriation of 290.000 hectares (716.590 acres) belonging to a British-owned company amid a disagreement over compensation for earlier takeovers of ranchland from the firm.
President Hugo Chavez announced the latest seizure after saying that Venezuela refuses to pay compensation in foreign currency to Agropecuaria Flora, a local subsidiary of the British company Vestey Group.
Agropecuaria Flora has 130,000 head of cattle on its 11 ranches in Apure, Falcon and Guarico states, the company website states.
Chavez said the government had received a demand from the company that it be paid in dollars for the previous seizure of tens of thousands of acres. But the government insists in paying in Bolívares, Venezuela's currency.
It's difficult for foreign companies operating in Venezuela to repatriate profits and other income in Bolivares due to strict foreign currency controls.
Venezuela's expropriation of farm and ranch lands began in earnest in 2005, with the government employing a 2001 law allowing it to seize lands deemed idle or not adequately used. Some landowners have negotiated compensation, while others have mounted legal challenges with mixed results.
The government has also seized some ranches for which it alleges the owners didn't hold legal title in the first place.
Owners of large farms and cattle ranches have criticized the takeovers, arguing that Chavez's populist-inspired policies have failed to boost agricultural production and made Venezuela increasingly dependent on imports of food from countries such as Brazil and Argentina.