Colombia’s FNC urges growers to look to future

The CEO of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), has urged members to take advantage of current high prices to invest and save for the future. “Coffee growers must use this period of favourable prices to increase productivity, invest in innovation and pay debts,” CEO Roberto Vélez Vallejo told the 83rd National Coffee Growers Congress. On a similar note, the FNC’s President Juan Manuel Santos reminded growers that his administration has invested heavily in the coffee growing sector in an effort to recover production levels. “Future administrations might not be as committed to the coffee sector,” Santos said. “My advice is for you to prepare for lean times . . . Prepare for the future by increasing productivity. We must move forward.” Vélez Vallejo presented the coffee growing sector's 2016 outcomes as laid out in the FNC’s 2016 Management Report. Some of the discussed accomplishments included figures regarding the coffee harvest, innovative commercialisation strategies, the decrease in the price of fertilisers, support provided in partnership with the Santos administration, and the reorientation of Cenicafé and the Extension Service's strategies. By the end of 2016, Colombia's coffee harvest will reach between 14.2 and 14.5 million 60-kilogram bags. In terms of innovative commercialisation measures, the export of qualities other than Excelso and the export of small quantities have increased the income of coffee producers significantly, the report stated. The rise in the commercialisation of specialty and value added coffees, and the expansion of the Juan Valdez brand and retail chain, have also benefited Colombian growers. Vélez Vallejo also discussed the challenges posed by labour shortages and potential avenues to bypass them. Reflecting on Brazil's experience using adapted motorcycles with a rear harness to fumigate and fertilize, he insisted on the importance of creativity and entrepreneurship. “Brazilian coffee growers don't have the Coffee Growers Federation, they don't have Cenicafé.  Producers are the ones who come up with the technological responses to the hardships they encounter . . . How many motorcycles do we have in Colombia? This is a call for coffee growers to become entrepreneurs and allies of the FNC in this effort.” According to an FNC spokesperson, one of the highlights of the first session of the National Coffee Growers Congress was the notable representation of young coffee growers and their demand for higher participation. As Angie Pino, from the department of Cauca, noted, young coffee growers are not only the sector's present, but also the sector's future. “We dream of a fair and viable rural sector; with participation and production guarantees, with better living conditions . . . Young coffee growers want to be acknowledged not only as the future, but as decision makers in the present,” Pino said.

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