According to the Associated Press, the National Guard in Venezuela seized some 330 tons of coffee beans that were being held back by growers in protest of government price controls.

Venezuela is something of an exception among Central and South American coffee growing nations: the locals actually drink the stuff. President Hugo Chavez imposed a price cap in 2003 to protect the poor from inflation, leading up to the crisis today where growers say they are forced to sell their beans below cost.

Meanwhile, coffee futures have reportedly closed at over a six-month high due to concerns in Venezuela and harvest estimates in Brazil.

UPDATE: 08-Jan-2006:
Venezuelan President, Cesar Chavez, has threatened to nationalize Venezuelan coffee production if the producers don’t stop hoarding: Chavez has warning for coffee producers.

UPDATE: 14-Jan-2006:
Venezuelans love their daily cafecito — a shot about 1/100th the size of American bathtub-sized tastes. And the street vendors are often the hardest hit by the dwindling supplies of coffee in Venezuela these days: Venezuela’s Coffee Conundrum.

UPDATE: 16-Jan-2006:
For a first-hand account of the coffee shortages in Venezuela, check out the blog from Daniel in Yaracuy as he describes the empty shelves and social dynamic in his hometown of San Felipe.

UPDATE: 17-Jan-2006:
The Associated Press reported today that the fixed price of coffee was finally raised by the Venezuelan government: Venezuela Raises Fixed Price for Coffee.