Venezuela has announced plans to ship oil to Portugal in exchange for food products and other goods that have been running short in the South American country.

Venezuela, Latin America’s largest oil producer, will send as many as 30,000 barrels of crude a day to Portugal by late 2008, President Hugo Chavez has said. He said he hoped Portugal would repay the full amount “with technology, food, and other goods and services” rather than cash.

Venezuela has suffered sporadic food shortages in recent years, with basic products including milk, sugar and eggs sometimes hard to find. Given those shortages, Venezuela agreed to provide crude to GALP Energia, Portugal’s state-controlled energy company, in exchange for soy oil, pasta and 5,500 tons (5,000 metric tons) of powdered milk from three different Portuguese producers.

The deal is one of 14 accords signed yesterday by the two nations’ leaders. Others call for Venezuela and Portugal to work together to exploit natural gas reserves off Venezuela’s coast and to certify oil deposits in Venezuela’s eastern Orinoco River basin.

As the world focuses more on more on the ecological costs of oil sands in Canada, it should not forget the ecological cost of the heavy fuel oil of the Orinoco.