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Toyota halts Venezuela production

Toyota is halting production at its only assembly plant in Venezuela because the world's largest automaker lacks the hard currency to import parts due to government controls, a factory official said.

CARACAS: Toyota is halting production at its only assembly plant in Venezuela because the world's largest automaker lacks the hard currency to import parts due to government controls, a factory official said on Friday.

The temporary shutdown of the Japanese car maker's operations in the western city of Cumana is to begin February 13 and last at least six weeks.

"We are going to close initially for 45 days in hopes that we will be granted the foreign currency needed to import auto parts," a source in Toyota Venezuela's management told AFP.

In a statement to its workers obtained Friday by AFP, the company said the lack of parts was "critical," and that the shutdown would affect not only production but all but essential administrative business.

The plant produced nearly 9,500 vehicles in 2013.

Companies such as Toyota must go through a complex bureaucratic process to obtain dollars.

Venezuela is only providing dollars at the official rate of 6.3 bolivars to the dollar to importers of designated priority goods such as food and medical supplies.

Others who need dollars to pay overseas bills have to buy them at a higher rate at government-run auctions. Many companies have complained Caracas is not providing them with enough hard currency.

The currency controls have led to shortages of a wide range of basic necessities, and fuelled an inflation rate that reached 56.2 per cent last year.

The Venezuelan Automotive Chamber says automobile production fell to 296 vehicles in January, almost all produced by Toyota.

Last year, 72,000 vehicles were made in Venezuela, down more than 30 per cent from 2012.

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