"Prepare the decree, we are going to expropriate Cargill," he said. "We are not going to tolerate this."

In recent days, he also seized some rice mills belonging to Polar, after accusing the food industry of skirting price controls and failing to produce enough cheap rice.

Polar, which is the country's largest private sector employer and produces and distributes everything from beer to flour, has vowed to take legal action over the rice mill takeovers.

Cargill operates one rice mill in Venezuela, and said earlier in the week that it was expecting a visit from officials.