According to the Venezuelan government, millions of families have used the petro, the country’s national digital currency, to pay for goods and services. As shoppers rush to spend their coins, merchants are reportedly struggling, effectively forced to sell goods at a deep discount. At least one merchant is said to have been arrested.
petro Adoption Rises
The Venezuelan government announced on Jan. 4 the successful use of the petro (PTR) for payments between Dec. 18 and Jan. 3. According to the announcement, 2,585,755 transactions were conducted using Biopagobvd, the biopayment system of the Bank of Venezuela which allows people to pay with petros at stores. The government also claims that 1,233,093 people paid with the digital currency at 7,422 stores throughout the national territory during that time period. In addition, Maduro said on Jan. 1 that almost 6 million families have used the petro as a payment method.
The Bank of Venezuela, in collaboration with the National Superintendence of Cryptoassets and Related Services (Sunacrip) and the Patria platform, is now making “improvements in its systems for more efficient use of the petro wallet.” The payment system is currently offline for maintenance from Jan. 4-10 “for the adoption of new applications and options,” the Venezuelan government detailed.
Merchants Forced to Accept Petros, Effectively Selling Goods at Discount
The situation is reportedly not rosy for merchants. According to Purse.io’s head of support, Eduardo Gomez, “The merchants are forced to accept the petro as payment at a fixed rate (2.5 million VES/PTR), whereas you can buy the token in the open market for as low as 1 million VES/PTR.” The Venezuelan explained on Dec. 29:
In other words, you can get a 50% profit by buying cheap petro and spend it at the merchants.
Subsequently, “The orderbooks in exchanges that trade petro are full in the sell-side and empty in the buy-side,” Gomez continued. “People get a subsidy in the form of a shitcoin in a depressed economy, and merchants are forced to accept the worthless token.”
When customers pay with the petro, merchants do not receive the digital currency, however. The Biopago system converts petros into bolivars (BsS) at a set exchange rate and pays the merchants in BsS. The Bank of Venezuela repurchases customers’ petros at its own set rate. Merchants receive petros thinking they are worth $60 a coin. However, according to a calculation by one Twitter user, they actually receive approximately $38.2 worth in bolivars per petro after conversion.