MEDELLIN, Colombia – Colombia’s coffee growers stressed on Monday the importance of coffee beans for the economy and stability of the country on the verge of the first World Coffee Producers Forum, which will analyze the future of this industry that yields about $200 billion annually.
“If there is any sector that can effectively contribute to construction and consolidation of peace in the country, it is the coffee industry,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said at the closing of the 84th National Congress of Coffee Growers, celebrated in Medellin.
In this regard, the president of Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC), Roberto Velez, told Santos that the union, which celebrated its 90th anniversary last week, is committed to “building a new country, a peaceful country” and will accompany the government’s initiatives to “provide development to areas once in conflict.”
“Illegal crops will have to be gradually replaced by alternatives that satisfy the chain of demand and supply. Coffee can be one of them,” said Velez.
The international part of the Forum, organized by the FNC, will be headed by president Santos and his counterparts, including Costa Rica’s Luis Guillermo Solis, Honduras’ Juan Orlando Hernandez, and El Salvador’s vice president Oscar Ortiz.
The event will run until Wednesday and will include special guests such as former US president Bill Clinton and economist Jeffrey Sachs, who will speak on sustainable development, one of the pillars of the forum.
The Colombian president said Monday that Colombia’s coffee sector must continue the work to make the sector more competitive and sustainable, and to capture more markets with its special coffees.
“As for the challenge of being more competitive and sustainable, it is fundamental that we maintain and strengthen the policy of coffee plantations renewal that we have been so successful in recent years. This will secure our young and productive coffee growing industry as a basis for the prosperity of the sector in the future,” Santos said.
He added that this effort must be supported in line with innovation in disease resistance and adaptation to climate change, so that coffee production continues to be the global benchmark in sustainability and quality.
For his part, the president of the National Federation of Coffee Growers indicated that the forum will be attended by 1,200 people from 40 countries, who will address issues such as the sustainability of the coffee world.
“Climate change, labor shortages, price volatility, production and productivity will be among the main topics to be discussed in this coffee industry meeting, perhaps the main one in recent years,” he said.
Velez added that the world’s coffee industry generates about $200 billion annually, but producers merely have access to less than 10 percent of that figure.
“What we are looking for is to create a space to reflect how we, as the actors in the coffee chain, could lay out sustainability in every dimension – environmental, social and economic – under the criterion of co-responsibility,” Velez said.
Also participating in the event was the Colombian Minister of Finance, Mauricio Cardenas, who assured that the country’s coffee growers have taken the effects of climate change seriously, and as a measure of managing those effects they have planted pest-resistant plants.
Thanks to that, the harvest last year reached 14.2 million bags of 60 kilos, Cardenas added.
In Monday’s session, the book “FNC 1927-2017: 90 years, living coffee and sowing the future” was launched, and the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications also released a postal stamp named “Colombia, a proud coffee country.”