Thursday, September 21, 2017

Congresses & Conferences 25

Published in Congresses & Conferences Written by September 16 2017 0

Medellin-based Agrofuturo announced September 15 that the just-concluded 11th edition of “Expo Agrofuturo” drew more than 25,000 attendees from 30 countries and generated approximately US$300 million in business deals, up nearly a third from last year’s show.

The trade show at Medellin’s Plaza Mayor convention center brought together 420 local and international companies along with dozens of experts expounding upon all facets of agriculture, with advanced technology and “green” biotech grabbing much of the limelight.

For example: Two of the three “innovation award” winners at this year’s edition – Anka Robotica and Taclla – are developers of drone-based crop detection and analysis technologies, while the third “innovation” winner was Medellin-based GE3 Biotech.

Meanwhile, this year’s “sustainability award” went to Cali-based Arroz Blanquita – a pioneering producer and marketer of organic rice, employing non-chemical pest-control schemes that are actually beneficial rather than harmful to birds and other wildlife.

On a similar note, Medellin-based banking giant Bancolombia unveiled a COP$350 billion (US$120 million) “Agroverde” line of credit for farmers employing environment-friendly technologies and production schemes.

Today, only 24% of Colombia’s arable land is used for farming -- just 5.3 million hectares of 22 million available hectares, according to Bancolombia. Another 35 million hectares in Colombia are dedicated to cattle ranching. But in many cases today, ranchers aren’t making best use of that land.

While Colombia (and Antioquia specifically) is a major world player in export of cut flowers, coffee, bananas and some tropical fruits, it has tremendous potential for expansion and diversification, as several experts from Chile (this year's special invitee) noted in a panel discussion on export development.

For example: Ricardo Navarrete -- Chile’s Embassador to Colombia – pointed out in his presentation here that while Chile has become a huge world player in fruit exports, “Colombia has much better climate conditions than Chile.”

As a result, with more robust investment in farming -- combined with upgrades in road and port infrastructure, plus continuing expansion of free-trade agreements -- Colombia could become a much bigger player in global agricultural exports, even potentially passing Chile, he added.

Published in Congresses & Conferences Written by August 31 2017 0

The Medellin-based Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitología (SAO) announced August 24 that it will hold its fourth annual Medellin Bird Festival on October 11-16, 2017.

This year's festival (see: https://www.festivaldelasavesmedellin.com/) will include free morning bird-walks on October 11, 12 and 13 to Santa Elena, San Cristobal and Parque La Presidenta (Poblado neighborhood). 

Promotional videos about this year's Festival can be viewed here https://youtu.be/ws_dy3EyGOE and here https://youtu.be/adY6VYuFm9I.

Afternoon sessions on the first day willl include an expert lecture on recent discoveries in biology; a study on the relationship between certain plants and birds; a special session teaching children about birds; and highlights from recent wildlife research in Virginia (USA).

Second-day afternoon sessions include a lecture on advances in reproduction of endangered species in zoos; an overview of Colombia's spectacular birding opportunities, and; a night tour of the Medellin Zoo, where nocturnal birds display songs, calls and behaviors not seen or heard during daylight hours. 

Day-three afternoon sessions will include a special exposition of bird photography; a lecture on gardening for birds and wildlife; a lecture on using the "eBird" computer program to record and share bird observations; and an expert overview from the Colombia chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

SAO History

Founded in November 1984, the SAO now has 210 dues-paying members (including members in several countries in addition to Colombia). This year's president is Martin Estrada, and the executive director is Ana María Castaño.

"Medellín is the capital of the department (Antioquia) that is the richest in bird species in Colombia, the country that holds the world record for greatest number of bird species. Because of this, Medellin is justly known as the 'World Bird Capital,'" according to the SAO.

Aside from the annual Medellin Bird Festivals, other main activies of the SAO include:
1. Publication and sale of bird reference books and field guides;
2. Monthly bird-watching trips;
3. Training guides that work at nature reserves;
4. Monthly meetings featuring illustrated lectures by leading ornithologists and environmental researchers.
5. Distribution of scientific bulletins (“El Cucarachero” and SAO Bulletin);
6. Maintaining the DATAVES computerized database (for members only);
7. Offering courses and workshops on bird subjects, for children and adults;
8. Participation in public exhibitions;
9. Environmental impact studies and projects;
10. Providing training and educational materials;
11. Working with allied institutions;
12. Offering for sale bird-themed shirts, calendars, mugs and caps.

Books published by the SAO include three illustrated editions of the Birds of Aburra Valley (Aves del Valle de Aburra);  a Dictionary of Names of Colombian Birds; an illustrated gardener’s guide on planting trees for birds (“Vida, Color y Canto”); a photographic guide to the Birds of the Aburra Valley and several pocket guides.

“We work to encourage more people in the community to devote their free time to enjoy wild birds,” according to the organization. “For those who have found in birds a passion that combines both birdwatching and research, SAO stimulates places for generating sustainable projects.

“Bird-watching involves not only the proper use of binoculars, but also accurate identification skills through the use of field guides, photos, sounds and songs, habitats and distribution patterns. SAO members make their knowledge available to help form new generations of qualified birdwatchers and scientists."

Published in Congresses & Conferences Written by July 28 2017 0

Medellin-based national textile/fashion-industry trade group Inexmoda announced July 27 that the just-concluded 28th annual “Colombiamoda” show – the leader of its type in all of Latin America -- generated US$179 million in new business.

However, that figure was down more than 50% from last year’s version -- mainly as a result of this year’s economic downturn in Colombia and nearby markets, including the catastrophic socio-economic situation in neighboring “socialist” Venezuela and a sharp recession in neighboring Ecuador.

While disappointed by the sales commitments – measured and audited by Invamer Gallup -- Inexmoda leaders nevertheless pointed to the positive impacts of the show, which included 56,800 visitors, 600 exhibitors, 69 fashion shows, 22 business-trends conferences and 12 technical workshops.

“At this moment in time, the economy of our country displays symptoms of deceleration, and the textile-clothing industry isn’t immune” from the downturn, Inexmoda president Carlos Eduardo Botero explained in a press conference at the show’s conclusion.

“In this edition [of Colombiamoda], business was lower than our expectations. We had a higher percentage of buyers who expressed their intention to buy, but they cut their average ticket in half, which shows that they are being more cautious when investing,” he added.

Of the 23,412 registered attendees to the commercial portion of Colombiamoda, 12,394 were buyers, of which 87% were Colombian nationals and 13% international buyers from 56 countries, according to Inexmoda.

Major highlights of the show focused upon “formal casual” wear, jeanswear, footwear and “complete package” clothing, footwear and accessories. The adjacent “Textiles2” show included 90 exhibitors, including raw-materials suppliers and “complete package” vendors.

High-technology was another major highlight for vendors and buyers, including a business round-table organized by Colombia’s Ministry of Technology and trade-development agency ProColombia.

Sixty-one high-fashion designers and 400 models displayed the latest in fashion at runway shows for 22,800 attendees, including special themes sponsored by Cotton USA, “El Cubo,” “NonStop,” “Moda de Colombia” and many others.

Max Factor, Wella Professionals and Sally Hansen provided make-up and styling services for the fashion models, while electric-power giant Celsia contributed specialized lighting for the runway shows.

Medellin-based Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB) organized 12 workshops and 22 conferences on fashion-industry and consumer trends, for 10,168 attendees along with 8,300 live-streaming viewers at the adjacent Teatro Metropolitano, according to Inexmoda.

The show also generated US$12.5 million in extra business for local hotels, restaurants, taxis and services, with hotel occupancy hitting 91%, Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez added.

Published in Congresses & Conferences Written by July 11 2017 1

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton told an overflow audience for the first-ever World Coffee Producers Forum July 11 that Medellin’s transformation from the world’s most violent city 25 years ago to a global leader in social innovation and progress might foretell what Colombia as a whole eventually could become.

Holding the prestigious World Coffee Producers Forum in Medellin would have been “unthinkable” in years past, because of the city’s bad reputation, he said. But Medellin -- where Colombia's Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros (the coffee-growers' trade group) was born 90 years ago -- has since become a beacon for hope, he added.

“Colombia could be unrecognizable in 20 years -- in a good way,” if wise social policy and “smart” investment continue to build upon the example that Medellin has set in recent years, Clinton told an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 forum delegates from 40 countries at the InterContinental Hotel here in Medellin.

Clinton likewise praised Medellin’s pioneering development of novel public-transit systems, which include outdoor escalators in mountainside neighborhoods, aerial trams, Metro rail, bus rapid transit (BRT) and free bicycles -- mainly serving the poorer and middle-class sectors of the city.

Positive results from “smart” urban social policy and investment similarly could be replicated via “smart” investment and development in rural areas – not just in the surrounding Antioquia department (which today has more than 80,000 coffee farmers) but also elsewhere in Colombia and world-wide, Clinton added.

Citing improvements from recent Clinton Foundation projects in Indonesia and Africa, Clinton pointed out that “smart” rural development -- using coffee as an “anchor” crop -- has been proven to reduce social conflicts and violence.

Expansion of “smart” coffee development in Colombia likewise could help to reduce coca-plantation acreage -- and the related violence and narco-trafficking that accompany coca production, he added.

What’s more, such “smart” coffee development also can help reduce deforestation, which has helped to preserve Colombia’s world-leading diversity in birds and orchids, Clinton added. Such preservation of forests, flowers and wildlife also can deliver big gains in profitable ecotourism, as Costa Rica has shown, he said.

However, Clinton cautioned that “smart” coffee development ought to incorporate crop diversification -- so that farmers don’t become too reliant on a single commodity that has a long history of price volatility.

This cautious message about over-reliance on coffee stood in contrast to emotional pleas here from presidents of several nations as well as producer-association leaders, all of whom urged the launch of aggressive campaigns aiming to convince multinational coffee buyers to redistribute a greater portion of their profits to coffee producers.

For example: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated here that a cup of coffee retailing for US$3.50 at upscale coffee shops in Europe or the USA only nets Colombian coffee producers about US$0.05 – an “obnoxious” differential in share-of-profits, he said.

Columbia University (New York) economics professor Jeffrey Sachs added in a keynote presentation here that doubling this US$0.05 producer share-of-profits to US$0.10 (per cup of coffee) would make a huge difference for producer sustainability, while hardly affecting consumers.

While some sort of future, global agreement among coffee producers to restrict output theoretically might improve producer margins, it’s practically impossible to get the 60 producer nations to agree, Santos said -- citing the failed “Pancafe Fund” initiative of decades past.

While wholesale buyers of coffee today may enjoy relatively low acquisition costs, global coffee inventories have been declining as many former producers have quit the business, citing unsustainable margins and declining availability of farm-workers, Santos warned.

As a result, coffee today is more vulnerable to price spikes – which could result from (for example) a potentially disastrous frost event in Brazil, the world’s biggest-volume producer, he said.

“It’s in the interest of everybody [in the global coffee chain] for a friendly agreement to pay a better price to producers,” Santos argued. “And the social benefits to the world’s 25 million coffee farmers would be enormous.”

Meanwhile, the recent “peace” agreement between the narco-terrorist FARC organization and Colombia’s government opens big opportunities for future rural investment, Santos said.

Such investment potentially could boost Colombian coffee output from the 14 million bags/year (each bag weighing 132 pounds) sold in 2016 to 18 million or even 20 million bags/year, he said. 

While "global warming" could hurt future global coffee production because of an increase in damaging rains, hail, droughts or crop diseases, Andean coffee producers including Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are seen as less-vulnerable to such impacts than relatively low-lying Brazil, Santos added.

Starbucks, USAID Team-up to Help Colombian Coffee Farmers

On a related front, U.S.-based global coffee retail giant Starbucks announced July 10 in Medellin that it's contributing US$2 million to programs in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) to provide skills training and technological tools to 1,000 young coffee farmers and also help smallholder female coffee growers in Colombia’s "post-conflict zones."

Both of these partnerships will advance the work of the Starbucks "Farmer Support Center" in Colombia, which opened in 2012 "to help connect farmers with trained agronomists and technical assistance, and expand its 'C.A.F.E. Practices' program, which is Starbucks' third-party verified sustainability program developed with Conservation International more than 15 years ago," according to the company.

The USAID public-private partnership in Colombia first started in 2013 with a $1.5 million investment, according to Starbucks. That program "has helped positively impact 20,000 farmers and expanded the collaborative program to the Tolima, Cauca, Valle and Antioquia growing regions to benefit up to 10,000 more coffee farmers," the company added.

Published in Congresses & Conferences Written by June 22 2017 0

Medellin’s three public agencies charged with promoting foreign investment, conventions and tourism announced in early June that they’ve developed a strategy to coordinate and boost promotional efforts.

 

The Medellin Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Agencia de Cooperación e Inversión de Medellín y el Área Metropolitana (ACI Medellin) and the Plaza Mayor convention center management jointly announced what they’re calling “articulated strategies for the internationalization of Medellín.”

The scheme initially includes an expanded, joint board of directors and the appointment of Juan Santiago Elejalde Escobar as general manager of Plaza Mayor, Medellin’s main convention center.

“A strategy will be implemented to jointly promote the image of Medellín as a business [oriented] city, [as well as] competitive, innovative, sustainable and with a high quality of life,” according to a joint press statement from the three agencies.

“It was agreed to promote an awareness program on the importance of meeting and event tourism for Medellín, generating talks with all the actors of the service chain, both public and private and regional alliances with other Bureaus and convention centers of other cities to improve the management of the destination and the international positioning.”

The Bureau also touted recent convention successes, including 87 events captured for Medellín in 2016 and another 23 captured in the first months of 2017.

Meanwhile, according to the most recent International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) annual report, Medellin rose to the top of all major cities throughout the Americas in convention growth over the past 10 years.

According to ICCA figures obtained by Medellin Herald, Medellin rose from just 10 convention events in 2007 to 42 in 2016, or 320% growth.

After Medellin, the top-24 cities in ICCA-measured convention growth in the Americas over the past 10 years were (in descending order): Lima, Panama City, Mexico City, Bogota, Washington DC, Miami, Orlando, Cartagena, San Jose, Montevideo, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Boston, Toronto, Santiago de Chile, Seattle, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Cancun, Rio de Janeiro and Vancouver.

While Medellin is showing impressive growth, it’s still far behind the world’s top-10 -- Vienna, Seoul, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Beijing and Singapore -- in terms of total participants at conventions, according to the ICCA study.

Meanwhile, Plaza Mayor management separately announced June 14 that the city of Medellin approved another COP$1.5 billion (US$500,000) for modernization of facilities at the convention center this year.

Upgrades include creation of a new conference hall in the exhibition area, bathroom improvements, LED lighting installations in the Great Hall, a new audio-video system and new furniture in the VIP zone and the Hall of Conventions.

Published in Congresses & Conferences Written by January 26 2017 0

Medellin-based national textile and fashion industry trade association Inexmoda announced January 26 that the 2017 edition of the just-completed Colombiatex trade show resulted in US$326 million in business deals – up 4% year-on-year.

Published in Congresses & Conferences Written by January 24 2017 0

Plaza Mayor convention center management announced January 20 that they will host more than 600 international and national events in 2017, while recent infrastructure upgrades will help show-off Medellin’s increasingly popular business-tourism opportunities.

Published in Congresses & Conferences Written by December 28 2016 0

Inexmoda -- Colombia’s national textile and fashion-industry trade association -- on December 20 unveiled details on the upcoming “Colombiatex” textile and fashion-trends show in Medellin January 24-26, 2017.

Published in Congresses & Conferences Written by November 18 2016 0

While Colombia’s gold-mining sector historically has too-often suffered from environmental destruction, violence, land invasions, intromission of guerilla/criminal groups and loud protests from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and citizens, Antioquia is starting to show real progress in socially and environmentally responsible mining.

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Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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