Soaring inflation and a slump in buying power are making 2002 a difficult year for McDonald's and other fastfood companies operating in Venezuela.

A steeply devalued Venezuelan currency has sent inflation rocketing, prompting a drop in consumption that has hit fastfood outlets fast, reports the local daily El Nacíonal. Sales in the fastfood industry dropped 13% in the first six months of this year, according to a executive at McDonald's Venezuela, with transaction volumes at McDonald's itself down 8% during the period.

The economic slump has forced McDonald's to rein in its expansion plans. The group will now open just eight new locations, rather than the planned 17.