As you have probably seen in different news outlets, the situation in Colombia remains volatile, with protests continuing in different regions of the country. While negotiations occur between the government and protesters, coffee and other food supply chains have been affected by these events.
To give you all a little bit of context, in November 2019 citizens went out to the streets to protest about social inequalities, more money for higher education, the implementation of the Peace Agreement with the FARC, and corruption, amongst other issues the country has faced for decades. After negotiations with the government, things calmed down for a few months. Then, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and most of the issues were left unattended as the pandemic became the main priority. After over a year of strict lockdowns and uncertainty, as well as a slow vaccination campaign, the pandemic has left an even more critical situation: higher unemployment (especially in the younger population), more poverty and lack of opportunities, growing inequality, as well as a huge economic and fiscal gap.
To address these fiscal issues, in mid-April the government presented a tax reform that amongst other reforms, included higher taxes for the middle class. On April 28 people went back to the streets to protest the tax reform. Although the government withdrew the tax-reform bill and the Minister of Finance resigned at the beginning of May, people are still out on the streets protesting, especially younger people. What started as a protest against a tax reform quickly expanded with protesters increasing their demands and violence erupting in many parts – probably with the involvement of some criminal groups that are taking advantage of the chaos. According to human rights organizations, there have been multiple deaths and injuries, including some police officers.
Despite the government announcing a job-subsidy scheme and free public university education for the poorest, and multiple meetings held between civil society groups and the government, people continue to go out daily to protest, oftentimes singing and dancing. Unfortunately, roadblocks erected by some protesters in many parts of the country have led to shortages of food and basic goods, including gasoline, as well as medicine, and vaccines, precisely at a time when the country is experiencing a deadly third wave.
What about coffee?
Roadblocks have also halted all coffee movements, both from dry mills to shipment ports and from growing regions to dry mills. Despite these challenges, all our satellite warehouses in growing areas remain open and receiving coffee from our farmer partners to ensure they can continue delivering and selling their high-quality coffee. Our logistics team is actively working with the different authorities and communities to find different routes to move coffee without compromising the safety of our farmer partners and employees or putting coffee at risk. However, we are currently estimating delays of at least 5 weeks on most May and all June shipments. We will keep you updated on any changes to the current conditions and how they might affect your contracts.
We understand the importance of prompt arrival of coffee, so please contact us to review what the different options we can offer you from our spot position and our other 6 origins. We are committed to working with you to help you bridge this gap in our shipment schedule.
Despite these unfortunate circumstances Colombia is living, we remain optimistic about the future and committed to contributing to Colombia’s progress by investing in our communities, providing well paid jobs to our people and sustainable prices to coffee growers. Colombia has always been characterized by its amazing people, known for being welcoming, resilient, and hardworking. Today, more than ever, we stand by our people and believe in our capability of making wonderful things happen to continue building a better country together. We hope that protesters and the government can soon agree on a path forward, through a peaceful dialogue, to work on building a better and more equitable future for all Colombians.
If you would like to support Colombians, there is no better way than to continue supporting coffee growers, committing to long-term contracts, and paying them prices that allow them and their families a better future. If you are thinking about donating, we recommend a couple of organizations that we know and support, and which are helping Colombia’s youngest generations to have a better future: Hogares Bambi or Save the Children.
We will do our best to continue updating you as the situation evolves in the next few days.
For more info about the situation in Colombia, please visit the following links:
New York Times – Colombia Protests: What to Know
The Economist – The Riots in Colombia: Hint at Deep Problems
Forbes – Amid Protests and Police Violence: Colombia’s President Condemns Blockades that have Stopped Delivery of Food and Medicine
America’s Quarterly – Colombia’s Crisis Is an Urban Youth Crisis. Old Solutions Won’t Work
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