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Venezuela to 'saturate the market' with 50 million rolls of imported toilet paper

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
May 16, 2013 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
Venezuela's monthly demand for toilet paper is about 125 million rolls a month.
Venezuela's monthly demand for toilet paper is about 125 million rolls a month.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Venezuela is facing a shortage of a number of basic goods
  • The government announced it will import 50 million rolls of toilet paper
  • Officials blame private companies and the media for the shortage
  • The opposition says the government's own economic policies are failing

(CNN) -- To avoid getting caught with their pants down, Venezuelan officials say they will confront a toilet paper shortage by importing 50 million rolls to meet demand.

Toilet paper is just one of the basic goods and foodstuffs that have been disappearing from store shelves over the past few months, as the government and private companies blame each other for the scarcity.

Venezuelan Minister of Commerce Alejandro Fleming announced the toilet paper measure on Tuesday, the state-run AVN news agency reported.

Repeating the government's stance, he blamed the media for provoking fear in consumers, who in turn begin hoarding items.

"There is no deficiency in production, but an excessive demand generating purchases by a nervous population because of a media campaign that has been created to undermine the country," Fleming said. "We are going to saturate the market so that our people will calm down and understand that they should not let themselves be manipulated by the media that says there are shortages."

But Venezuelans say the shortages are very real, as staples such as rice and cooking oil are scarce.

The lack of toilet paper is apparent in Caracas, where shoppers hurry to buy rolls and make long lines when the bathroom tissues are in stock.

Venezuela's monthly demand for toilet paper is about 125 million rolls a month, Fleming said.

The government also casts blame on private companies, who they accuse of hoarding their products in hopes of selling it later at a higher price.

But businesses and the political opposition say government policies, including price controls on basic goods and tight restrictions on foreign currency, are to blame. The regulation discourage production, and many producers can't break even with the price controls, they say.

Other hygiene products, such as tooth paste and soap, might also be imported in bulk to meet demand, Fleming said.

CNN's Rafael Romo contributed to this report.

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