Juan Manuel Santos

Government investment in Colombia’s iconic coffee region has climbed 42% to a nearly $20 million, a figure that will create jobs and improve infrastructure, according to President Juan Manuel Santos.

Speaking from the central state of Quindio, Santos reiterated the positive effect the government’s PIC program – a subsidy program for suffering coffee growers – has had on the region and the economy.

“What was confirmed today was the decision of the Government to begin distributing the PIC, and the support we are giving to the farmers. A billion pesos ($500,000) program of support never seen before and we are repeating the commitment made last year,” Santos said.

The statement was made at the end of a ministerial meeting in the municipality of Calarca, which included participation of Cabinet ministers, governors and representatives of mayors from the coffee region.

Santos added that decreasing unemployment in coffee region’s cities of Armenia (13%) and Pereira el (33%), Manizales (29%), and nearby Medellin (19%) was evidence of a positive turn in the area.

Despite levels of production reaching six-year records, small-scale coffee growers still face a self-declared “crisis” due to falling international prices, high production costs, and growing debts.

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Victor Javier Correa, spokesman for the Movement for Colombian Coffee Grower’s Dignity (MDC), told Colombia Reports in a response to Santos’ claims that although the subsidies have brought a certain level of sustainability to coffee production and employment, there is still a lot to be done throughout the region.

Correa, who is also a candidate for the Democratic Pole (Polo Democratico Alternativo – PDA) in the House of Representatives, said “the subsidies of the previous year helped to curb the losses that were experienced by Colombian coffee producers but didn’t cover them completely.”

According to the spokesman, a number of issues are yet to be addressed by the government, including higher investment to improve infrastructure, better access to capital at lower interest rates, high production costs, and “the problem of multinational mining ventures that is threatening parts of our coffee growing regions,” Correa added.

At the end of the meeting in the heart of the coffee region, Santos stated that with the rising international price of the coffee bean — coupled with the falling value of the Colombian peso – coffee farmer’s income is increasing.

The president added that the government has invested more $9.4 million on infrastructure alone, with highway and road projects already underway.

MORE: Colombia coffee production hits 6-year high


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