MARACAY, Venezuela, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- The Kraft Heinz Company has sold 17 million seeds to Venezuelan farmers in the hopes of increasing tomato production by 400 percent amid an economic crisis in the country.
Venezuela's ketchup is currently produced with 25 percent of Venezuelan tomatoes. The company wants to increase the amount of Venezuelan tomatoes used in the country's ketchup production to 40 percent.
The effort is part of a plan developed by Kraft Heinz Venezuela to harvest greater varieties of tomatoes with improved color and composition. Last year, the company sold 3 million seeds to 25 farmers planting on nearly 250 acres of land.
Heinz sells the seeds to Venezuelan farmers at a reduced price and the harvested tomato is sold to Heinz at a previously agreed-upon price.
"We are taking a big bet to guarantee production. The important thing to is understand well what is happening, from the hand of farmers. We must do more and produce in the country. I believe in the team formed by the government, the farmer and the company," Alexandre Magno Reis, president of Heinz Food of Venezuela, told El Mundo in an interview with The World Economy and Business. He spoke during the delivery of seeds to 30 tomato growers in the Aragua state's city of Maracay.
For the 2016-17 season, Heinz wants to cultivate on more than 1,200 acres of land to produce 44 million pounds of industrial tomatoes to produce more than 5.5 million pounds of ketchup.
Venezuela's economic crisis, which was exacerbated by a decrease in oil prices, has led to a shortage of basic goods -- including food and medicines. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's regime has taken various steps, such as ordering the military to take control of five ports as part of "war strategies" to provide food and medicine amid the economic crisis.
Though many companies have left Venezuela citing difficult conditions under a socialist regime, Magno Reis said Heinz Food of Venezuela is there to stay.
"Venezuela is one of the main operations of Heinz Foods in Latin America. This is a key country for us. We have plants in Brazil, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Mexico," Magno Reis added. "The important thing is to understand is that we are fighting to produce. We will not leave from here."