PetroCaribe Oil Imports Plummet

The ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela has caused the quantity of oil Jamaica receives on a daily basis from the Latin American country to plummet precipitously.

Jamaica’s only now receiving about 5-percent of the amount of oil it would usually receive each day from Venezuela.

That’s based on data provided today by Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith. But she’s maintaining that there are ‘no issues’ at this time.

Observers of the unfolding crisis in Venezuela would hardly need another indication of how bad things are there.

The country’s economy has shrunk, unemployment is rising, and people are suffering from widespread shortages of food and medicine.

But for casual observers in Jamaica, the extent to which oil imports from the country has fallen should resonate.

At a press conference today, Minister Johnson Smith said Jamaica’s oil imports from Venezuela has fallen from approximately 23-thousand barrels per day to just over a thousand.

That’s significant for several reasons — including how dependent Jamaican has been on Venezuelan oil for over a decade.

And, it also raises questions about the sustainability of the Petrocaribe agreement if things don’t improve in Venezuela, and perhaps quickly.

Jamaican and about 17 other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America get thousands of barrels of oil from the socialist country on a concessionary basis.

It’s helped these countries to save billions as Venezuelan oil has fuelled their economies.

And, though Minister Johnson Smith says there are no problems at this time, the Jamaican government is now reviewing the risks to the Petrocaribe agreement.

At today’s press conference, she said a special sub-committee of Cabinet has been appointed to review arrangements related to agreements and trade with Venezuela so as to monitor any possible exposure in light of developments there.

Minister Johnson Smith says she can’t say whether the decline in oil imports would affect projects being funded through Petrocaribe.

The Petrocaribe arrangement began in 2005 by then Venezuelan President, the late Hugo Chavez.