“BOOSTING THE OUTPUT”
Farmers who fled war in the Colombian Andes are returning to revive their abandoned land, cultivating coffee trees that are boosting global supplies of the highest-quality arabica beans. A peace deal between the government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in late 2016 paved the way for many coffee growers to their homes and farms.
The revival of coffee farming in the former conflict zones could help boost Colombia’s coffee output by 40 percent, according to government estimates. That would raise global supplies of mild arabica beans by about 13 percent. The additional supply could reduce the cost of the raw material for the world’s top roasters, many of whom are seeking to secure increased supply from Colombia.
The area now has about 800 hectares of coffee farms, double the low of 400 hectares during the war. That’s still only about half of the 1,500 hectares prior to the conflict, according to data from the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC). The combination of farmers returning to their abandoned land and others switching to coffee could help boost the country’s total output to a record 20 million 60-kg bags by 2020, the government estimates, up from 14.2 million bags in 2016.
‘A LOT OF WORK’
International roasters, like Starbucks Co and Nestle, have jumped at the opportunity to buy more beans from Colombia, the world’s third-largest coffee producer and the source of a third of the world’s mild arabica supplies.
Nestle Nespresso, for instance, bought it first beans from a post-conflict region in 2016 and is now launching it as a limited edition. “A lot of these regions, nobody had even been in and tasted the coffee until recently,” said Katherine Graham, Nestle Nespresso’s corporate communications manager; “There are some areas with strong potential.”
Starbucks Co expanded its partnership with the United States Agency for International Development to give 1,000 farmers in post-conflict zones agricultural training. It also partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank to support 2,000 farmers in Colombia – mainly women – with a loan initiative.
Back near San Carlos, farmer Rubiela Cuervo works a remote farm with her family. She fled to Medellin to escape the violence in 2005 but struggled to make a living and returned a year later despite the ongoing violence. She has expanded the farm as peace returned to the area in recent years.
“We hope that peace will bring us more employment, more income for our work,” she said. “I’m hoping not to be displaced again.”