Tropical fruits provide lifeline amid Venezuela food shortages

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Fruit providing lifeline amid Venezuela food shortages
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Tropical fruits provide lifeline amid Venezuela food shortages
Mangoes and other tropical fruits called "Mamones" are seen on the floor in La Fria, Venezuela, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Juany Iznaga, holding mangoes and other tropical fruits called "Mamones," poses for a picture next to her house in La Fria, Venezuela, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Josue Moreno, 14 , throws a stick towards a mango tree to try to dislodge the fruits in La Fria, Venezuela, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Josue Moreno, 14, throws a stick towards a mango tree as he tries to dislodge the fruits in La Fria, Venezuela, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Men carrying a bucket full of mangoes and a mesh tied to a electrical pipe used to bring down the fruits from the tree, walk on street in Caracas, Venezuela June 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Orlando Holguin poses for a picture next to tropical fruits called "Mamones" at his street stall in La Fria, Venezuela, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A girl eats a tropical fruit called "Mamon" while seated next to some mangoes on a street in La Fria, Venezuela, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Juany Iznaga holds a mango and a knife as she eats the fruit at her house in La Fria, Venezuela, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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LA FRIA, Venezuela, June 7 (Reuters) - Venezuela's mango season is providing some relief during worsening food shortages that are forcing the poor to skip meals and sparking a rash of lootings.

Facing Soviet-style food lines for increasingly scarce products at supermarkets, more and more people are turning to the South American nation's lush mango, coconut and papaya trees.

While children have always scampered up trees or tossed stones to knock down the juicy yellow mangoes, workers are now joining them during lunch breaks, and parents are making long poles to scoop up the high treats.

"Sometimes when there's nothing in the fridge, I grab two mangoes," said Juany Iznaga, 13, whose family is going without some meals since her mother lost a job at the mayor's office.

"Mangoes help a little; they fill you up," Iznaga added as she shared a slice with her younger sister in the fertile town of La Fria by the Colombian border.

Around the crisis-hit nation of 30 million, people are consuming more starch and less protein. Many say they cannot afford three meals a day.

So mango season is being feted as never before.

"Now we can't throw anything away, not even the skin," said homemaker Iris Garcia, 58, whose son plucks mangoes in the windy Caribbean peninsula of Paraguana.

Venezuela in crisis

"THAT'S WHAT WE HAVE"

As the recession reduces employment and inflation crushes spending power, street corners are increasingly brimming with informal vendors selling freshly picked fruit.

Josue Moreno, 19, quit his job four months ago at a bottled water plant where he made $7 a month on the black market rate and now sells coconuts under the leafy shade of a busy street in La Fria.

"This work is easier," said Moreno as he chopped the fruit with a big knife, poked a straw into it and handed it over to a thirsty customer blasting Latin American reggaeton music from his pickup. "Coconuts take care of themselves; you don't have to do anything."

Still, sweet tropical fruits are no substitute for a proper diet, and protests are spreading as delivery trunks become an ever more elusive sight.

For two days, Adrian Vega has been eating crackers topped with mangoes from the tree in his backyard in the jungle state of Bolivar.

"And by the looks of it," the 23-year-old student said, "I'll be eating mangoes for several more days because that's what we have."

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