EFE reports that Venezuelan oil has fallen to prices last seen in 1998, at the equivalent of $9.98 per barrel.
Because of the sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States, the Petroleum Ministry no longer refers to the oil price in dollars, but rather in China’s currency, the yuan. The price per barrel reported by the ministry, 70.62 yuan, equates to $9.98 at the current exchange rate of 7.07 yuan to the greenback.
Venezuela, which is dependent on revenue from oil exports, has seen the price of its major product decline steadily over the last two months as a consequence of the slump in global demand for crude amid the economic dislocations arising from the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Industry analysts estimate that it costs Venezuela around $19 to produce a barrel of oil.
The last time Venezuelan crude was this cheap was in 1998, during an earlier international slowdown associated with the Asian debt crisis that began the previous year. Starting in 1999, the first year of the presidency of Hugo Chavez (1954-2013), oil began a seemingly inexorable rise that saw crude peak at nearly $150 a barrel in 2008.
Venezuela is a leading member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which recently reached an agreement with Russia and other major oil producers to reduce production starting May 1 in a bid to put a floor under prices.
President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s designated successor, said this week that while Venezuela is prepared to cope with a further drop in the oil price, Caracas is working closely with its OPEC partners and with Russia to avoid that eventuality.
The Petroleum Ministry noted that the OPEC median price fell this week from $19.03 a barrel to $14.89, while other benchmark crudes also took a beating.
Europe’s benchmark, Brent oil from the North Sea, lost $7 to end the week at $22.94 a barrel. The US reference, West Texas Intermediate, actually dipped into negative territory at the start of the week and finished the period at $4.19 a barrel, down a whopping $16.38 from the previous Friday.