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Colombia: Farmers Strike

Colombian Coffee Growers Begin Striking In Downtown Bogota Today

CoffeeNetwork (Bogota) - Colombian coffee growers striking today in front of the Ministry of Agriculture have a final goal of meeting with the Minister of Agriculture Juan Guillermo Zuluaga.

As much as 1,000 Colombian coffee growers are gathering today in downtown Bogota, with some growers arriving at the Agriculture Ministry as early as 7:00 a.m. today.

“Ultimately, I expect to have a meeting with the agriculture minister, and we will present a proposal that goes beyond demanding a bailout,” Oscar Gutierrez, director of Coffee Dignity, a group that advocates improved conditions for coffee growers, told CoffeeNetwork.

Coffee Dignity demands a bailout in which the government pays the difference between internal coffee prices and the balance to reach an income of 800,000 pesos for a 125-kg bag of parchment coffee. Gutierrez although said coffee growers should be receiving at least 830,000 for a 125kg bag of parchment coffee.

Gutierrez will also request the government to grant a pension to thousands of growers, who have the age to be pensioned but are still working because they cannot afford to stop working as they didn’t save to secure a pension.

Farmers from ten coffee-producing regions including Antioquia, the country’s second largest coffee-producing region; Tolima, the third largest coffee producing region and the southern departments of Nariño, Valle del Cauca and Cauca have begun arriving to Bogota.

Internal coffee prices ended at 773,000 pesos ($270) for a 125-kg bag of parchment coffee yesterday, recovering from the 692,000 pesos recorded on 19 April- the lowest level of 2018- propelled by the weakening of the local currency. The current price allows producers to pocket a profit as producing the same bag costs between 700,000 and 750,000 pesos.

The coffee growers’ federation sets every day internal coffee prices taking into consideration international coffee prices and the Colombian peso.

The peso has weakened 5% in almost three weeks. The peso ended at 2,857.85 yesterday, weakening from 2,705.34 on 16 April, according to the central bank. The peso depreciated as international investors are cashing out profits, and leaving the country to invest in US treasury bonds, which offers high yields. Investors are also selling Colombian treasury bonds after the central bank cut interest rates on Friday, reducing their appetite for Colombian fixed income.

Meanwhile, the government’s intention to pay 150 Colombian pesos per each tree renovated is falling short from the 600 Colombian pesos they should be receiving to guarantee that this Andean country renovates 100,000 hectares per year.

To renovate one coffee hectare, farmers need 3.3 million Colombian pesos (US$1,178), and the government is only providing 825,000 pesos , which is deemed as insufficient, Gutierrez concluded.

Writing Diana Delgado

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