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The latest report from Colombia’s national economic statistics agency (DANE – Departamento Administrative Nacional de Estadistica) shows that Colombian exports through August 2017 are up 15.7% year-on-year and 19.5% for the first eight months of 2017.

Antioquia once again leads all departments in the nation with an 18.8% share in total dollar value of exports (excluding petroleum), while the United States continues as the number-one destination for Colombia exports, receiving 29.1% of the total, according to DANE.

Agricultural product exports (including processed foods and drinks) jumped 22.2% year-on-year in August, while the first eight-months of 2017 saw a 13.4% rise compared to the same eight months in 2016, mainly thanks to coffee exports.

However, manufactured product exports so far this year have fallen 11.2%, the agency found. Exports to neighboring “socialist” Venezuela showed the steepest drop – down 61% this year-- thanks to that country’s ever-worsening economic disaster, the DANE statistics show.

By categories, the biggest declines in exports were in chemicals, specialized machinery, non-metallic minerals and pharmaceuticals.

As for “other” Colombian exports, this sector showed a 10.4% year-on-year gain in August, mainly because of a rise in gold exports, up 11.5%.

For the first eight months of 2017, combustible product exports showed a 27% improvement year-on-year, mainly because of a jump in coal and petroleum-coke exports, DANE found.


Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced September 26 that two big investment banks based in Britain and Canada inked deals to help finance the “Pacifico 2” fourth generation (4G) highway project in Antioquia.

According to ANI, Britain-based ING Capital LLC and Canada-based CDPW Revenue Fixe (the Quebec provincial Pension Fund) are joining the list of investors in Pacifico 2.

Reacting to the announcement, Colombia’s Transport Minister Germán Cardona said that the foreign-investor decisions “show the enormous confidence that national and international banks have in financing these proejcts, and that the [project] concessionaires are doing things correctly.”

ANI president Dimitri Zaninovich added that the latest agreement “is going to permit, for the first time, the entry of institutional investors to finance big infrastructure projects. In this case we have the Quebec Pension Fund and ING from the United Kingdom that are investing more than COP$100 billion [US$34 million] in Pacífico 2.” 

Other financiers involved in Pacifico 2 include Banco de Crédito del Perú (US$50 million), Itaú Unibanco S.A. New York Branch (US$50 million) and Banco Santander S.A. (US$35 million), according to ANI

“In addition to these US$250 million investments, there is financing in Colombian pesos with the Banco de Bogotá and Banco Davivienda for COP$510 billion [US$173 million],” according to ANI.

The total project requires more than COP$1.3 trillion (US$442 million) investment, the agency added.

“Pacífico 2” includes 96.5 kilometers of roadway connecting Bolombolo southward alongside the Cauca River to La Pintada and also northward to the southern Medellin suburb of Primavera.

Of those 96.5 kilometers, 37 will be four-lane, divided highway; three kilometers will be two-lane divided highway, 2.5 kilometers of tunnels, 48 bridges and 54 kilometers of rehabilitated roadway.

“This project will improve transport for passengers and cargo from Medellin and Antioquia toward the Coffee Region and the southwest of the country,” according to ANI.

Project concessionaire La Pintada S.A.S. includes Grupo Odinsa (78.85%) and Construcciones El Cóndor (21.15%).


At a September 26 event celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Medellin-based ISA -- Colombia’s national electric-power transmission operator and power-market trading hub – speakers praised ISA for revolutionizing and rationalizing Colombia’s power industry.

In a speech here at Medellin’s Plaza Mayor convention center, Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos recounted the painful history of Colombia’s catastrophic power outages for 13 months during 1992 and 1993, which cut a full three percentage points out of gross national product (“PIB” in Spanish initials).

That event spurred ISA to adopt measures that have since helped to avoid a repeat of similar power disasters.

However, Colombia’s heavy reliance on hydropower – about 70% of the national total – makes the nation especially susceptible to occasional “El Niño” droughts (as in 1992 and 2016) that slash water supply to hydroelectric plants, Santos warned here.

What’s more, global climate change could worsen this situation, which makes it even more important for Colombia to deploy more alternative sources including wind and solar power, which feasibly could rise from a 1% national share today to around 15% in years ahead, he added.

Aside from global warming threats, the Colombian electric power industry is facing radical market changes that threaten the historic business models of generators, transmitters and utilities, as noted by several panelists at the event.

Notably, Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez was among the audience members paying close attention to these warnings -- especially since dividends from the city-owned, multinational power utility EPM provide about 20% of Medellin’s annual income.

What’s more, EPM is part-owner of the under-construction, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric plant in Antioquia – which will be by far the nation’s biggest single power plant when it reaches full capacity in 2021. Future “El Niño” droughts aggravated by “global warming” could pinch EPM’s future revenues from that plant.

One of the panelists here -- Navneet Trivedi, chief operating officer of Vrinda, a New York-based electric power consultancy – warned that while ISA has enjoyed tremendous, profitable growth in moving electrons since its founding 50 years ago, the future for ISA likely will be one of less demand for long-distance, high-tension transmission.

Many factors account for this forecast, including greater efficiencies in power technologies and the growth of distributed energy generation (DEG) --including home, office and factory generation schemes that for example may employ diesel/natural gas generator-sets, or solar power paired with battery or hot-water storage.

Such efficiencies and innovations help explain why (for example) the Washington, DC, population has grown 13% in the last five years, yet electricity demand over that same period has fallen 6%, he said.

DEG, technology evolutions and efficiency schemes similarly are likely to cut demand for long-distance, high-tension power transmission and “change the role of the [power] grid” in Colombia, Trivedi added.

What’s more, Pablo Corredor – director of ISA’s Medellin-based power-trading subsidiary “XM” – pointed-out in his presentation that future growth of electric vehicles (EV) in Colombia could have mixed results: a favorable reduction in vehicle air pollution, but a potential power-market disruptor. Reason: EV’s potentially could represent gigawatts of stored power, newly made available to local grids through reverse transmission (vehicle-to-grid).

While Vrinda’s Trivedi told Medellin Herald that “I don’t think vehicles-to-grid will be an easy solution,” Trivedi did emphasize that ISA, power generators and utilities will need to adjust their business models radically to accommodate the coming changes in power supply and demand.

“There are multiple ways” to address these challenges, he said. “But they [power-industry players] need to focus more on services than product delivery,” he added.

In a recent column published in the U.S.-based energy journal Energy Central, Trivedi explained that “there are at least three values/colors of electricity: energy, infrastructure and services, instead of one black-and-white value: kilowatt-hours (kWh).

“In their zeal to simplify electricity charges, utilities have made a monolithic unit (kWh) and when that was not sufficient they pushed [power regulators] for a fixed charge (demand charge). Even the vocabulary is wrong! There is nothing fixed about fixed charges -- they vary and in fact now utilities want to see steep increase in them.”

On a parallel front, emerging technologies that could radically change power markets would benefit from carefully supervised demonstration-and-trial programs such as the “NY REV” project now underway in New York, according to Trivedi.

“We recommend that a framework should be developed and institutionalized for demonstration projects to ensure that NY REV [or a similar program elsewhere] is implemented with its intended benefits,” he wrote in a recent column.

Participants in technology demonstrations need to “publish methodology, selection criteria, implementation approach and monitoring mechanism for demonstration projects,” while “demonstration projects should clearly identify the need for bringing private capital, proven technology and examples of service models,” he added. “Quantification of benefits should be part of the monitoring of demonstration project governance,” he concluded.

ISA president Bernardo Vargas added in his presentation here that the Colombian power industry is heavily regulated. As a result, new-technology demonstration programs and new business models will require effective communications and close cooperation between the power industry and government regulators.

“We need to avoid obsolescence,” he added. “We have profound government restrictions on what we can do, so we have to work with government to be proactive.”


Thirty-five-year-old New Zealand expat Dan Cardiff and 47-year-old Dutch expat Ronald de Hommel seemingly would have little in common -- aside from both now living in Medellin and both having launched separate, Colombian-export businesses here.

But despite having been born and raised on opposite sides of the planet -- and with wildly different careers prior to launching new ventures here – they have a common, shared vision: Finding overseas markets for specialty farm products, and then sharing their profits with historically disadvantaged, relatively small-scale Colombian producers here.

Both men also share a history of globe-trotting, as Cardiff previously sailed all over the world for years as an employee for luxury yacht owners, while de Hommel worked more than 20 years as an independent photojournalist, taking him all over the world on assignments for newspapers and magazines.Leer más 


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Medellin-based gold-mining giant Mineros SA jointly announced September 20 that they’re boosting funds and technical aid to formerly artisanal or illegal miners in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia.

“The productive and commercial capacity of beekeepers of Bajo Cauca will be strengthened thanks to the agreement established between USAID and Fundacion Mineros SA, and the Association of Beekeepers of Bajo Cauca and the South of Bolivar (Asapibas), through the ‘Oro Legal’ [Legal Gold] program,” according to the agency.

Funding for the program now tops COP$2 billion (US$692,000).

“The direct beneficiaries are 88 families from Asapibas, who contributed with the initial assembly of the core [beekeeping] laboratories. In the first phase of the project they were given tools, elements of protection, inputs, technical assistance and training. In a second phase they will receive a certain number of hives to expand their apicola [bee-honey] production units.

“The goal is for each family to have at least 45 populated hives, which will allow them to generate monthly income of between one and two minimum wages,” which in Colombia is COP$738,000/month or about US$255 today.

The “Oro Legal” project organizers first established two test laboratories for the production of biological cores -- in the Naranjal village of the municipality of Zaragoza and the second lab in the village of Bocas de la Llana, municipality of El Catre .

“These laboratories will be responsible for supplying the bee population to 3,180 hives, which will be delivered to families for the production of honey and other by-products,” according to USAID.

“The Mineros S.A. Foundation for its part provided the premises for the assembly of the laboratories, professionals for installation, specialized advice with experts from the Universidad Nacional and the business strengthening program ‘Avanza,’ in addition to the assembly of an associative plot for a laboratory adjacent to the mine La Ye.

“In addition to receiving materials and supplies for the apiaries, the beneficiaries were trained in the production of apitoxin, pollen and propolis, by-products of the hive that will represent additional [income] resources," according to the agency.

“Before, I worked as a barequero [informal gold miner],” added Juan David Pedroza, a member of Asapibas. “Now that I know the world of bees, I bet on beekeeping. After training, I also got the opportunity to work as an extension technician on this project,” he added.


Germany-based InterNations announced this month that Colombia ranks eighth among 65 countries for best expat living – a jump upward of 12 places, compared to its rank of 20th in 2016.

However, Colombia ranked a relatively poor 31st for working abroad.

In the survey of 13,000 respondents worldwide, Bahrain took the number-one spot for best expat living, followed by Mexico (second) and Costa Rica (third), according to InterNations.

Rounding out the top-10 best-for-living in 2017 were Taiwan (fourth), Portugal (fifth), New Zealand (sixth), Malta (seventh), Colombia (eighth), Singapore (ninth) and Spain (tenth).

In the same survey, the 10 worst countries for expat living were (in order) Greece, Kuwait, Nigeria, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Ukraine, Qatar, India and Turkey.

“Between eight and nine out of 10 expats rate the friendliness of the population towards foreign residents positively,” according to InterNations. Leer más 


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.


Medellin-based highway concessionaire Devimar announced September 13 that it has obtained two vital environmental licenses that pave the way for construction of the “Autopista al Mar-1” divided highway linking Medellin westward toward current and future Atlantic ports.

The project also will include construction of a second tunnel parallel to the existing “Tunel del Occidente” (West Tunnel) on the western Medellin boundary.

“This milestone allows us to continue with the construction stage of the second road between the West Tunnel to San Jerónimo, and from San Jerónimo to Santa Fe de Antioquia,” according to Devimar.

“The commitments stipulated in the license include compliance with rehabilitation, reforestation and conservation activities. These interventions will seek to mitigate and compensate for possible environmental impacts.”

The new permits issued by Colombia’s national environmental licensing authority (ANLA) “are a great step forward for the development of the project,” according to Devimar.

“Our compensation plans are designed so that our intervention in the development of the project is positive, and in this way we can protect the animal and plant life that coexists with the Autopista al Mar-1 project,” said Devimar manager Jesus Rodriguez Robles.

Projects to be developed include ecological rehabilitation, reforestation of more than 800 hectares of natural forest, and secondary vegetation, according to the company.

“Likewise, in the matter of care and protection of water, we will act to conserve the Cauca River and the Cauca and Aurra river basins with priority in the sub-basins that have been identified as aqueduct suppliers,” according to the company.

The “Mar 1” project includes:

1. Improvement of the existing roadway and the construction of a second road in the Medellín section (Aburrá - Cauca road connection) and then onward to Santa Fe de Antioquia.
2. Construction of a second, parallel, 4.6-kilometers-long West Tunnel, “which will solve traffic problems at the entrance to Medellín.”
3. Rehabilitation of the existing road between Santa Fe de Antioquia and the village of Peñalisa (municipality of Salgar), including improvements to the Peñalisa bridge over the San Juan river.
4. Rehabilitation of 25 kilometers and operation and maintenance of the 62-kilometers-long road between Santa Fe de Antioquia and Cañasgordas.

The project will improve highway traffic movements between Medellín, Ebéjico, San Jerónimo, Sopetrán, Santa Fe de Antioquia, Buriticá, Giraldo, Cañasgordas, Anzá, Concordia, Betulia, Salgar and Venecia.


Toronto, Canada-based Gran Colombia Gold announced September 5 that a violent strike by illegal gold miners in the Antioquian municipalities of Segovia and Remedios is finally over – benefitting more than 2,500 legal miners affiliated with the company.

The 42-days-long strike resulted in several deaths, widespread vandalism and economic suffering for thousands of residents in the area.

“We are pleased to see the civil strike in Segovia and Remedios has been lifted and we can get back on track with our 2017 operating and capital plan,” said Gran Colombia CEO Lombardo Paredes.

“Through our commitment to economic development in Segovia and Remedios, we will incorporate additional small mining collectives into our contract mining model, which will allow continued operation of ancestral mining within our title in accordance with the government’s requirements for health, safety and environmental responsibility.

“Although our production in August [during the strike] was below normal, we continue to expect that we will meet our annual production guidance for 2017 of 150,000 to 160,000 ounces of gold,” Paredes added.

Over the next few months, Gran Colombia “will negotiate specific operating contracts with each of the mining collectives based on general terms agreed to last Friday [September 1] between the Ministry of Mines, the Governor of Antioquia, the Mayors of Segovia and Remedios, the Mesa Minera and the company,” according to the company.

“The monetary compensation under these new operating contracts will be established for each mining collective individually with the company retaining between 10% and 60% of the spot price for each ounce of gold produced. The contracts will also require that all ore is to be processed at the company’s Maria Dama plant,” according to Gran Colombia.

Illegal miners in the strike area have been dumping toxic mercury into the environment as well as invading legal claim areas run by responsible miners (some of which are multinationals). Violent criminal groups also sometimes ally with these illegal miners in return for extorsion payments.

Many illegal miners also objected to new government laws requiring permits and legalization, which will put a stop to mercury dumping. Others claim "ancestral" rights to mining -- even when such mining involves irresponsible invasion of legal mining operations that obey all environmental, tax and labor laws.

Continental Gold Launches ‘Future Harvest’

Meanwhile, fellow Toronto-based Continental Gold announced September 5 the launch of a “Future Harvest” program aiming to help mining families in western Antioquia diversify incomes and improve lives.

“Future Harvest is projected to directly benefit the communities of Buriticá, Santa Fe de Antioquia, Giraldo and Cañasgordas, which are all in the company’s direct area of influence,” according to the company.

“Continental Gold intends to contribute approximately US$370,000 of the total program investment of US$518,000,” according to the company.
The program involves 14 private and public entities “to advance the implementation of a self-sufficient sustainability strategy with productive agricultural business,” according to the company.

“The first seven business plans funded under Future Harvest include programs for cultivating coffee, plantains, poultry, garden produce, strawberries, as well as fish farming and fiber production.

“Each business plan was structured with the communities and local and regional institutions, taking into account local productive capacities, soil productivity and quality and other variables, while promoting efficient water resource management and the use of best agricultural practices to balance development with protecting ecosystems.

“Each business plan also features the development of an integrated rural program, ongoing training and the transfer of productive assets, as well as providing access to savings programs and support regarding consumption, which have been proven to result in significant and lasting improvements on the quality of life,” the company added.

Commenting on the program, Buriticá Mayor Humberto Castaño added: “Through responsible, legal and organized mining, we can generate income to transform our land. With Future Harvest, on the day mining operations finish, we can guarantee that there will be sustainable economic activity in the municipality.”


The latest report from Colombia’s national Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE) shows that industrial production in metropolitan Medellin dropped 10% year-on-year in second quarter (2Q) 2017 and has fallen 6.8% through first-half (1H) 2017 (see chart, above).

A sharp drop in textiles output (down 25%) and a 19.8% drop in “other manufactured goods” production during 2Q 2017 largely explains the over-all decline, according to DANE’s regional statistical report  on Colombian manufacturing.

Sales of manufactured goods in metro Medellin also dropped 8.5% in the latest quarter, while employment in manufacturing also dipped 3.4% year-on-year, according to the agency.

On the bright side, 2Q 2017 output of basic chemicals in metro Medellin rose 3% while “other chemicals" output rose 3.7% year-on-year, according to DANE.

In other key Colombian regions, 2Q 2017 manufacturing output dropped 8.9% year-on-year in Bogota, fell 4.4% in the Santander regions, and slipped 1.7% in the Cali-Yumbo region. However, output climbed 1.4% year-on-year in the Barranquilla-Cartagena-Santa Marta region and rose by a fractional 0.1% in the coffee region, according to DANE.


Page 9 of 33

SILLETEROS PARADE 2016 by JOHN AND DONNA STORMZAND (click to enlarge)

MEDELLÍN PHOTOS by Gabriel Buitrago (click to enlarge)

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About Medellin Herald

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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