Market Reports

The many sides of Colombia’s FNC

Coffee is a huge part of the social fabric of Colombia. As one of the country’s most famous exports, and the source of livelihood for a large portion of Colombian farmers and their families, the crop is entwined with Colombians’ identity and the welfare of the nation.
Playing an extremely important role in the safeguarding and promotion of the Colombian coffee industry is the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC). Founded in 1927 as a business cooperative that promotes the production and exportation of Colombian coffee, the FNC represents more than 500,000 producers, most of whom are smallholder farmers. The FNC has earned fame abroad for its successful “Juan Valdez” marketing campaign that was developed in 1981 to distinguish 100 per cent Colombian coffee from coffee blended with beans from other countries. The trademark made its first TV appearance in 1983 featuring a country farmer (campesino) carrying coffee on his mule Conchita. At home, the FNC has most recently distinguished itself for its comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to renovating the nation’s coffee crops to the more resilient Castillo variety, which is resistant to climate change-induced threats such as leaf rust. But away from the supermarket shelves and coffee trees, the FNC is also extremely active as an initiator of, and participant in, a range of social programs that are improving the lives of Colombians on and off the coffee farms. Over time, this has seen the FNC become a partner of choice for many government and non-government agencies who are seeking to run or participate in development projects in Colombia. “As part of its mission to improve the welfare of Colombian coffee growers, the FNC has always sought to multiply resources to leverage its own social programs,” says the FNC’s Director of International Cooperation, Sebastián Giraldo. “This was started by local, departmental, and  national authorities and organisations in Colombia, and has broadened to international cooperation.” One such program that the FNC has had a measure of success with recently is the Forester Families Project. In March, the Japanese company Mitsubishi Corporation donated US$100,000 to the FNC to continue supporting the Forester Families Program, which is executed by the FNC as a joint initiative with the Colombian government, local authorities, and Mitsubishi itself, among other actors. The donation will enable the FNC to continue the implementation of the program, which started in 2008 and facilitated the delivery of equipment and improved smallholder farmers’ infrastructure for ecological post-harvest processing of coffee. It includes training and development of skills for local coffee growers through agricultural experts’ assistance and investments in ecological equipment for washing and drying coffee. The Forester Families Program benefits 2880 smallholder coffee farmers and covers an area of 2745 hectares across nine regions: Nariño, Huila, Cauca, Tolima, Magdalena, La Guajira, Norte de Santander, Boyacá, and Santander. In July 2008, Mitsubishi Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Colombia and the FNC for the program, agreeing to support coffee growers Norte de Santander with production infrastructure and training over 10 years. The support has been mainly focused on improving the capacity for pulping and drying locally grown coffee.
As a part of the program, in May 2015 the Mitsubishi Corporation bought 550 70-kilogram bags of high quality coffee from 288 Norte de Santander coffee growers to be sold in Japan. The FNC is also an active partner with Nespresso in its AAA Sustainable Quality Program, which is an integral part of the single-serve giant’s corporate social responsibility and quality assurance strategies. “The successful and transparent implementation of these projects by the FNC has led to an increase in the number and investments of projects in Colombian coffee regions,” Giraldo says. In fact, the FNC’s strong relationship with Nespresso has helped the two organisations launch the largest sustainability project implemented so far, not just in Colombia, but in any coffee-producing country. The Manos al Agua-Intelligent Water Management project, which is focused on water care in coffee regions with an investment of US$28 million over five years, is an initiative that aims to contribute not only to sustainability and resilience of Colombian coffee farming to climate variability, but also to the integrated management of water resources in 25 river basins of the country. Implemented by the FNC, the Manos al Agua Program is the result of a public-private partnership that also includes the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Agency for International Cooperation (APC Colombia), Nescafé, Nestlé and Nespresso, the University of Wageningen UR, and the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé). By encouraging an intelligent water management model for the Colombian coffee sector, Manos al Agua will contribute to increase its resilience and adaptability to water and climatic phenomena. “Making coffee farming a climatically adaptable and sustainable activity is one of the biggest challenges of the Colombian coffee sector. Both by excess and lack of water, water imbalance reduces agricultural productivity, with annual losses of up to 40 per cent of crops, affecting farmers’ income and livelihood,” the FNC CEO, Roberto Vélez, said in a statement at the time of the project’s launch. The program works at different levels. At community level, for example, coffee farmers will have access to solutions such as post-harvesting plants, which optimise costs and improve water use. At territory level, erosion risks will be mitigated, and at farm level, more producers will treat their wastewater. The Manos al Agua Program seeks joint and active participation of communities, companies, universities, and local and international authorities. With a flexible scheme for incorporation of new stakeholders, anyone interested is invited to join this initiative. Besides providing tools for better decision-making in the coffee sector and rural development, the project is intended to strengthen regional and national water policies. Another initiative by the FNC to showcase the strength of the Colombian coffee industry is the annual international coffee fair, ExpoEspeciales Café de Colombia. Known as Latin America’s leading specialty coffee fair, this year, more than 100 exhibitors representing the producers and commercial side of the coffee supply chain will participate in the event. The 11th Colombian Barista Championship and the sixth National Cup Tasters Championship will take place at this year’s ExpoEspeciales.
Similarly, attendees will be able to enjoy the fair’s academic and marketing agenda and participate in high-level networking spaces over the course of the event. As a new initiative from the FNC, this year ExpoEspeciales will host the first edition of the National Coffee Quality Contest.
This competition is organised by the FNC as part of its strategy to increase the profitability of Colombian coffee growers by promoting and broadcasting high quality coffees from different Colombian regions. The ninth edition of ExpoEspeciales will take place from 4 – 7 October in Bogota, Colombia. GCR

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