Colombia calls for coffee strike to end

Colombia calls for coffee strike to end

BOGOTA - Reuters
Colombia calls for coffee strike to end

Soldiers guard a roadblock formed of trees set by small coffee farmers on the Pan American Highway in Piendamo, southern Colombia on Feb 27. AP photo

Colombia’s government raised a subsidy to coffee farmers on March 2 and called for them to end a strike, but farm leaders said they will continue protesting and blocking roads because they want buyers to pay a minimum price for beans.

Coffee growers in Colombia, the world’s top producer of high-quality Arabica beans, are demanding more help from the government after being hit by years of poor weather, crop disease and a strong currency.

They have been blocking key highways and secondary roads since Feb. 25, especially in the coffee producing provinces of Huila and Cauca.

“There is no reason to continue with the strike and blockages. This is a solution with a strong financial appeal,” saidLuis Genaro Munoz, head of the coffee growers federation after meeting government officials to discuss their demands.

The government has offered to increase a subsidy to 115,000 pesos from 60,000 pesos previously for a 125-kg sack of parchment coffee for small producers when the internal coffee price is below 650,000 pesos. The subsidy also increases to 95,000 pesos from 60,000 previously for big land owners.

The measure became effective on Sunday (March 3) and will run until Dec. 31, said Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas.

But strike leaders said protests will continue until the government agrees to set a minimum price of 650,000 pesos for 125 kilos of parchment coffee regardless of foreign exchange and international coffee prices.