The government of President Hugo Chavez has seized control of two of Venezuela's largest coffee processing plants and threatens to expropriate the businesses.

Commerce Minister Eduardo Saman says officials suspect that Fama de America and Madrid might be illegally smuggling coffee out of the country to sell it at higher prices.

Coffee is subject to strict government price controls in Venezuela.

If investigations reveal violations of the law, Saman says officials will "propose the expropriation" of the plants.

Authorities took control of the plants on Monday.