10 Most Sought-After Bartering Items in Venezuela
By Maybell Nieves
October 14, 2019 08:13
About 50 years ago, Venezuela was one of the most stable countries in the world. Even with huge oil reserves, however, little is left of the so-called Saudi Venezuela.
More than 30 years of misguided economic policies unleashed what is now Venezuela: a country full of misery, long lines to buy food, and hospitals and public health centers in poor condition. We are also dealing with the largest exodus of professionals in the history of Venezuela. Since 1999, with the arrival of Hugo Chavez, the national currency (the bolivar) has suffered several devaluations.
This is the result of inflation that is more than 40% per month. At the end of the last century, inflation led countries like Argentina, Brazil, and, more recently, Zimbabwe to devalue their currencies, causing an economic disaster that ended up affecting the most vulnerable citizens: those who live on a fixed monthly income.
As a surgeon and an instructor in the surgery residency program at the most important hospital in Caracas, my monthly salary is barely $10, and it is one of the highest for a public administration worker. The minimum monthly wage is less than $4.
That is how the bolivar has become a useless currency. This has led some people to trade by barter or to ask for goods instead of money when charging for their services.It has become such a common practice that there are Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp groups for the supply and demand of barter products.
Some of the most sought-after and profitable products that one can have are the following:
One of the first things that disappeared because of the price controls established by the government was basic food. I have spent full weekends visiting several supermarkets in order to buy all the food needed from a normal shopping list.
Powdered milk and sugar are among the most difficult items to get, so it is now normal to exchange two or three bags of rice or pasta for one of milk.
Any type of analgesic, antibiotics, and oral contraceptives are easily interchangeable for an article of the same importance. Medications are usually exchanged for other medications.
When a family member suffers from a chronic disease, such as diabetes, it is important to have his or her treatment.
Both my parents are hypertensive, and I always try to have their medicines ensured for up to five months. When I find it at the pharmacy, I try to buy as much as I can.
One of my patients who works at a pharmacy lets me know whenever my parents’ treatments arrive so I can buy more before they disappear.
#3. Voltage Protectors
With the serious electricity problems in the country, voltage regulators have become one of the most useful and sought-after items today.
As they are expensive products, sellers probably do not receive any other item as payment.
If you need one and find someone willing to sell it, its price will surely be set in American dollars. However, it is always better to invest in a voltage protector than to lose a refrigerator or air conditioner due to a sudden electrical change.
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#4. Hygiene Products
Personal hygiene products, such as soap, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, razors, and toilet paper, as well as household hygiene and disinfection products, are very valuable in this economy.I particularly try to fill my shelves whenever I find any in the supermarket. On more than one opportunity, I have been able to exchange these products for something else.
#5. Flashlights, Batteries, Candles, and Matches
Electrical problems and electricity rationing in much of the country make light-generating items indispensable.
Above all, batteries and candles are excellent products that can be stored and eventually used for an exchange.
Nowadays coffee in Venezuela is a luxury product. Although this country once was one of the main coffee exporters, many of the coffee companies that were expropriated by the government are no longer in operation.
In Venezuelan culture, drinking coffee, at least in the mornings, is a tradition. It’s normal even for children to drink a cup of café con leche (coffee with milk).
Taking advantage of that tradition, many sell products of very low quality in which remains of corn and seeds have even been found in the mixture.
A package of coffee, good coffee, is something really valuable.
I’m not a smoker, but I have close friends who are, and I realize the very high price of tobacco products—so high that some street vendors sell cigarettes individually.
For smokers, these are valuable items for which they will pay whatever price, either in money or in another item.
If anything shouldn’t be scarce in Venezuela it’s oil derivatives. However, in recent years, there have been serious distribution problems around the country.Products such as gasoline and diesel are sold at very high prices by the military and even smuggled into the country from Colombia and Brazil.
In times of a fuel crisis, having gasoline stored can be of great help. Obviously not everyone has an adequate infrastructure to keep this type of product safely stored though.
#9. Vehicle Spare Parts
Any vehicle spare part has become an extremely difficult product to obtain. From simple things like windshield wipers and antennas to more complex parts, Caracas has become a city of cars in poor condition and without any maintenance.
The government decided to regulate the prices of spare parts, and as always, they disappeared from the spare parts businesses. That regulation generated a clandestine market of buying, selling, and bartering, especially of tires and batteries.
Related: 12 Essential Things You Can Scavenge from Cars when SHTF
Without a doubt, possessing some skill that can be exchanged for goods is one of the most profitable things at the moment.One of my best friends is a personal trainer. The gym where she works pays her with a free membership and unlimited use of the facilities.
Another close friend is a community manager and manages the Instagram profiles of several doctors, receiving medical consultations as payment.
It is not unreasonable to exchange a medical consultation for a dental one, which was a personal recent experience.
I made this list of what my experience in this situation has been. Surely there are many other important products that I have left out, but no doubt those I named are among the most sought after.