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Venezuela to bump China oil exports to one million barrels a day

© Venezuelan Presidency/AFP | Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro (right) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping walking during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing

CARACAS (AFP) - 

Venezuela is to increase its oil exports to China to one million barrels a day, President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday, just days after visiting the Asian powerhouse.

Maduro said each country would invest "around five billion dollars" in the project by August 2019.

Private sector estimates put the current export figure to China at around 700,000 barrels a day.

Maduro spent two days in China last week, welcomed by counterpart Xi Jinping and attending meetings at the China Development Bank and the China National Petroleum Corporation.

Venezuela, the country with the largest crude reserves in the world, has received more than $60 billion in credit from Beijing over the last decade but still owes about $20 billion and has been repaying the debt with oil shipments.

Speaking to foreign media, Maduro said China National Petroleum Corporation president Zhang Jianhua will visit Venezuela on Thursday to finalize "the investment they're going to make."

China eased Venezuela's debt repayment conditions in 2016 with the South American country gripped by an economic crisis.

Maduro refused to comment on whether those conditions had been extended during negotiations with China.

"Venezuela pays its debts on time, it's shown in the most difficult moments it's ability to respond to its Chinese commitments," he said.

"The accounts are clear with them."

Upon his return from China on Saturday, Maduro had refused to comment on rumors he had been offered an extra $5 billion loan.

He also walked into a social media storm after a celebrity chef in Turkey had posted videos of Maduro gorging on juicy chunks of meat and sucking on a cigar at a trendy restaurant in Istanbul during a stopover in which he is believed to have met in secret with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Venezuela is plagued by economic woes following four years of recession and inflation expected to reach one million percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Citizens face food and medicine shortages while public services such as transport, electricity and water have been hit by failures.

The crisis came about after a 2014 crash in the price of oil, which accounts for 96 percent of Venezuela's revenue, causing shortages of foreign capital that was exacerbated by the government printing money.

Oil production has dropped to a 30-year low of just 1.4 million barrels a day in August, according to the Organization of Oil Producing Countries, from a record high of 3.2 million 10 years ago.

Industry is operating at just 30 percent while 87 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to a group of leading universities.

© 2018 AFP