Colombian government offers extra support to coffee growers following strike

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced on 2 March an agreement reached with the National Coffee Growers Committee, following strikes and demonstrations by 40,000 coffee growers around the country.  In February, some coffee growers took to the streets to express their anger over low coffee prices, and revaluation of the Colombian Peso against the US dollar. Luis Fernando Samper, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer for the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), told Global Coffee Review last week that in the last four years the Colombian Peso has appreciated almost 45 per cent against the dollar, meaning “producers have lost a significant amount of income in local currency whereas costs are indexed in local currency”. The Coffee Growers Congress is the consensus body of coffee growing institutions. The group gathered in Bogotá on 2 March to increase Support to Coffee Grower’s Income (Apoyo al Ingreso del Caficultor, AIC).   In a statement, the congress said that the new measures, in force as of midnight on 3 March, are focused on giving a vital support to coffee producers “in face of currently difficult situation of low domestic prices”. The congress said that the measure was adopted after Ministers of Finance and Agriculture presented before the Coffee Growers Departmental Committees’ representatives the President’s initiative to increase AIC to small producers by 92 per cent from the current 60,000 Colombian pesos  (US$32.34). Within the framework of the new agreement, the payments will depend on the size of the farms. For smallholder farms with up to 20 hectares (95 per cent of Colombian farmers) will receive a support of 115,000 pesos (US$62.20) per load (125 kilograms) of dry parchment coffee or equivalent. Congress said that this level of support should help domestic coffee prices match current level of production costs, estimated at 650,000 pesos (US$351.52). Producers owning coffee farms larger than 20 hectares will receive 95,000 pesos (US$51.38) per load. “The Government ratifies its commitment and solidarity with the coffee growing sector. We ratify that this sector represents social cohesion in Colombia and, because of that, we have come with the best will to agree with the country’s coffee growers through their institutions,” Colombian Finance Minister Mauricio Cárdenas was reported to have said at the meeting. The Minister also ratified his commitment to continue fighting revaluation of the Colombian peso against the US dollar. In the congress's statement it noted that: “neither the strike leaders nor any other actor of the coffee chain have proposed a better system than the current one to manage public resources and which allows to focus them, with the same efficiency, on small producers”. In a statement, Iván Pallares, the coffee-growing representative of Magdalena department and president of the National Committee, thanked the Government for its interest on the coffee sector. “Only sober, responsible and mature institutions build our country and develop programs; discrediting them affects development of a country such as Colombia, which needs them so much,” Pallares said. “Nothing strangest to our coffee growing nature than senseless violence and antagonism, which only lead thousands of people to be affected and see their physical integrity in danger.” Both FNC members and Government representatives invited the country’s coffee growers remaining in different spots where strikes and protests took place to go back to their farms. “We know that new measures are beneficial for a large number of producers. Those taking part in strikes and protests will have good news when they’ll go back home,” said Luis G. Muñoz, the FNC’s CEO.

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