2018 Beyond the Headlines: Venezuela's economic crisis putting strain on country's farmers
Updated 15:56, 29-Dec-2018
By Juan Carlos
Editor's note: As the year winds down, "The Link" brings you a special series we're calling "2018 - Beyond the Headlines" in which we look at some of the year's biggest stories, which may have been buried a little under reports of trade wars, conflicts, exits, and elections.
For Venezuelans living outside the capital, Caracas, the country's economic crisis presents particular challenges. Farmers are finding it more and more difficult to put food on their own tables, much less for those across the country.
The sun is rising over a farm in a rural valley in northwestern Venezuela, a couple of hours drive from the capital. 86-year-old Rafael Farfan is getting ready to go out to the fields he's worked for five decades. 
Rafael said: "I don't have the same strength I used to have. Working in the fields is hard, and I don't have the proper machinery, so everything we do has to be done by hand." 
People harvesting vegetables at Rafael Farfan's farm. /CGTN Photo

People harvesting vegetables at Rafael Farfan's farm. /CGTN Photo

As hyperinflation in Venezuela climbs to one million percent this year, buying seeds and fertilizer, maintaining equipment and paying wages are all too expensive. Farfan told his four farm workers he could no longer afford to pay them and now he and one of his sons are on their own in the fields. 
The bananas, beans and cassavas they grow go to feed Rafael and his wife, son and three other adult children who live on the farm. They depend on it to supplement the government program that delivers a box of food once a month. 
Rafael said: "It's hard, the government's food box is enough to feed my family for three days. The rest of the month we eat what we can get from our crops."  
As they wait for the harvest, Farfan says his family tries to set aside enough food for a small meal two times a day. Sometimes, all they have to stave off hunger is a cup of coffee.
A view of Rafael Farfan's farm. /CGTN Photo

A view of Rafael Farfan's farm. /CGTN Photo

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts Venezuela's inflation rate will reach ten-million percent next year. With that kind of massive increase in prices, the Farfan family says it's hard to imagine how they'll be able to buy the supplies, they'll need just to grow food for themselves.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has unrolled a new plan to tackle the agricultural crisis. He says the government will invest 1.2 billion dollars toward agricultural projects.
That plan will come too late for many of the farmers in this small community. Farfan says nearly a quarter of the families in the valley have given up farming and moved away either to the big city or out of the country. 
But he says as long as he's got air in his lungs, he's determined to go out to the fields to grow food to put on his family's table.