McDonald’s has ceased production of its signature Big Mac sandwich in Venezuela, citing a shortage of bread that makes it impossible to mass produce the product. The move, the latest in McDonald’s production woes in the socialist nation, follows President Nicolás Maduro’s order placing the nation’s military in control of the food supply.
The corporation responsible for Venezuela’s McDonald’s franchises, Arcos Dorados Holdings Inc., issued a statement calling the situation “temporary” and asserting they will find a way to stock the flour necessary to make buns for their sandwiches.
“McDonald’s Venezuela is working to resolve this temporary situation. Together with our supplier, we are evaluating the best options that will allow us to continue serving high quality food to our customers,” spokesman Daniel Schleiniger told Bloomberg via email. The outlet notes that this bread shortage is affecting over 2,000 McDonald’s restaurants.
Venezuela’s socialist economy and stringent pricing controls have sent the value of the bolívar currency plummeting, with inflation at an estimated 700 percent. The government strictly controls the use of the dollar, and many of the typical business transactions to import basic merchandise for corporate production are banned. Corporations cannot use domestic products, however, because they are nearly impossible to find. The Brazilian newspaper O Globo reports that Venezuela is currently suffering 80 percent shortages of basic food and medicinal items.
The lack of food has forced Venezuelans to make lines for supermarket rations that can last up to eight hours, often reaching the end to find that the supermarket has run out of flour, milk, vegetable oil, and other common items. The shortages have triggered regular looting and violence among stressed crowds. President Maduro responded first by dispatching emergency food supplies to neighborhood Socialist Party (PSUV) coalitions, who distributed the food to loyal party members. After repeated protests, Maduro placed the nation’s Minister of Defense in charge of the food supply, with the military at his full disposal to protect food stocks.
This is not the first time McDonald’s struggles to deliver its classic menu in Venezuela. In 2015, McDonald’s ran out of potatoes, making it impossible to offer their French fries on menus throughout the country. In November 2015, McDonald’s reintroduced French fries to Venezuelan restaurant menus. Due to the difficulties of legally buying potatoes in Venezuela, however, the fast food chain was forced to price a large serving of fries at $133.
Before reintroducing fries to the restaurants, McDonald’s offered fried yuca (cassava, a tuber common in Latin America) or arepas, a Venezuelan corn bread. Corn flour has become scarce in Venezuela now, too, however. In western Venezuela, the shortages have forced citizens to demand officials open the border to Colombia, a free country with fully stocked supermarkets.
For the past two weekends, the Maduro government has allowed residents of Táchira, Venezuela, to cross into the city of Cúcuta, Colombia. The first Sunday, over 35,000 people crossed into Colombia to buy flour, oil, and milk, as well as basic medicines. Last weekend, an estimated 90,000 people made the voyage. Before the legal border openings, hundreds of unarmed women stormed the bridge leading to Cúcuta, demanding the right to feed their families. Fearing the condemnation of the international community, they were allowed to transit peacefully into Colombia, where they bought food in an orderly fashion and left promptly.