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Medellin-based textiles giant Fabricato announced August 10 that its first-half (1H) 2017 sales fell 5.6% year-on-year, to COP$90.8 billion (US$30 million), while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) margin fell by more than half, to 2.7%.

On the up-side, Fabricato recorded a COP$45 billion (US$15 million) gain on the transfer of its 70% fiduciary rights in the “Pantex” real estate development project to the promoter-builder. This boosted net income 17.8% year-on-year, to COP$16 billion (US$5.3 million)

“The transfer of fiduciary rights is executed with due guarantees, and said transfer does not imply or represent for Fabricato any impairment or decrease in the quality or valuation of the guarantees granted by the promoter-builder group in favor of the company,” according to the company.

‘Somewhat Better’ 2H Outlook

“The business environment of the second quarter of 2017 showed no improvement compared to the first quarter, which was admittedly one of the worst for the Colombian economy since the crisis of 2008-2009,” according to Fabricato.

“As for the textile sector, the demand rebound for finished [domestically produced clothing] products was not perceived, in spite of the constant promotions that we have seen in the points of sale during the whole semester [and also because of] increased importation of finishing clothing, the result of the change in the tariff policy produced in November 2016.

“Another relevant element was the perceived increase in technical contraband (under-invoicing) in the period. This is an unresolved issue for a long time, which is causing damage to the sector.

“Some elements allow a somewhat better scenario to be projected in the [2017] second half : (1) inflation and the interest rates to the downside; (2) the consumer confidence index maintains a recovery trend; and (3) the commitments assumed publicly by the [port] authorities to combat some practices of unfair competition.

“We understand that at Fabricato, our state-of-the-art technology and resource optimization were decisive in cushioning the negative impacts. But in any case, in a capital- and labor-intensive sector, reducing the utilization of installed capacity will always lead to a negative effect on our results.

“Fabricato reduced its [employed] installed capacity to 80% in the period, with the objective of optimizing its cash flow and consequently preserving the capacity to comply with all contracted obligations,” the company added.

On the labor front, Fabricato took a COP$13.8 billion (US$4.6 million) charge for eliminating 200 positions at the company -- although this move will cut future payroll expenses by about COP$900 million each month.


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced August 8 that its “Oro Legal” program has already helped 205 miners and 176 informal/illegal gold-mining families in Antioquia convert to safer, legal mining – with many more miners targeted for help by 2020.

Working with the departmental government of Antioquia, “Oro Legal” projects (and the “Bioredd” predecessor projects) have already converted dozens of “mining production units” (“UPM” in Spanish initials) to legal operations, 36 of which now operate through service contracts with responsible miners that obey Colombia’s environmental, fiscal and social laws.

Thanks to “Oro Legal” educational efforts, newly formalized miners have helped slash annual toxic mercury dumping by seven tons, while 770 hectares of lands deforested and wrecked by irresponsible mining have now been reforested, according to USAID.

In three key gold-mining areas -- Buriticá, San Roque and El Bagre – legal miners produced eight tons of gold last year, according to the agency.

However, an estimated 1,664 illegal mines are still operating in the area, when including nearby townships including Caucasia, Cáceres, Nechi, El Bagre, Zaragoza and Tarazá, according to the agency.

“With a team of technicians and professionals, ‘Oro Legal’ helps small miners identify routes to legalization, which permits them to obtain [formal mining] rights,” according to USAID.

In areas where formal mining companies have yet to hold mining titles, “Oro Legal” also helps informal miners obtain legal-claim areas, according to the agency.

In areas where mining companies already have legal titles, the Oro Legal program helps illegal miners obtain subcontracts to work with legal miners -- while simultaneously preventing toxic mercury use.

Through July 2017, the “Oro Legal” projects have already legalized 38 “UPM” mine operations, of which six are in Antioquia’s Bajo Cauca region, 19 in the Northeast region and 13 in Buriticá, Don Matías and Barbosa, according to the agency.

Another 114 UPM operations are in process of legalization, 62 of which are located in Bajo Cauca, 36 in the Northeast and 16 others in the municipalities of Puerto Berrio, Buriticá, Don Matías and Barbosa, according to the agency.

Oro Legal also coordinated with Antioquia Governor Luis Perez on another 29 formalization subcontracts.

The agency also brought technical assistance to another 17 “UPM” operations in titled mining areas owned by Canada-based Gran Colombia Gold.

As for the future, Oro Legal aims to legalize 220 artesinal mining operations in Antioquia and Choco regions, involving about 17% of currently estimated illegal gold mining operations in the area.

This project would help some 3,800 mining families diversify incomes with alternative businesses, slash mercury dumping by 55 tons/year and legalize about US$280 million of currently illegal gold production, according to the agency.

Some Miners Refuse Help, Push Strike

Despite these good-faith efforts to promote environmentally and fiscally responsible mining, some miners don’t want the help – and some have mounted violent protests against legal mining over the past two weeks.

According to an August 8 report from Colombian daily newspaper El Tiempo – quoting statements from Antioquia Governor Perez – Colombian Army troops recently encountered caches of explosives and weapons used by violent demonstrators.

Meanwhile, another group of demonstrators protested outside the Governor’s offices this week in Medellin, with signs attacking multinational mining companies -- companies that don’t dump mercury, pay all required taxes and royalties, and  don’t support criminal groups that use violence and extortion in mining areas.

In contrast, informal, illegal miners “are not prepared for the ‘no-mercury’ mining norm,” the report quoted “Conalminercol” informal-miner association leader Rubén Darío Gómez as saying.

Meanwhile, Canada-based Gran Colombia Gold has sent tons of food and water to Segovia and Remedios where strikers have blocked roads. But some strikers/demonstrators armed with machetes and clubs stole the supplies from Gran Colombia workers, company spokesman José Ignacio Noguera was quoted as saying.

On a related front, another strike leader – Ramiro Restrepo, president of informal-miner association Asomineros – was quoted as saying that new legal-mining rules in Antioquia have made it nearly impossible for illegal-informal miners to sell their gold.

Now, such miners are required to get proper licenses and environmental permits. But informal miners don’t have time to do all this paperwork, Restrepo was quoted as saying.

Ironically, many of these illegal miners are now showing that they do have sufficient time to mount protests -- sometimes violent -- against legal mining and block roads to mining towns, preventing access to critical food and water supplies.

What's more, six employees of Canada-based legal miner Continental Gold died in a suspicious explosion two weeks ago, following an attack by illegal miners (see "Violence Slams Legitimate Canadian Gold Miners in Antioquia,"  Medellin Herald, August 1, 2017) .


The just-concluded, 60th annual “Desfile de Silleteros” (flower-carriers’ parade) – the culmination of the 10-days-long “Feria de las Flores” (flower festival) – once again showed-off Medellin’s growing attraction for global tourists and an enticement for foreign investment and relocation.

This year, John Jairo Grajales Gómez of the “El Porvenir” neighborhood in Medellin’s Santa Elena district took the over-all prize for best “sillete” (flower design), as well as best “traditional” sillete.

According to the Medellin mayor’s office, this year’s parade featured 510 “silleteros,” including 23 graying pioneers that launched the event 60 years ago.

Aside from the hundreds of thousands of spectators that lined Avenida Guayabal to witness this year’s parade (crowd estimated at 800,000)  -- and thousands more viewing the event on five different television channels around Colombia -- the festival also attracted more than 23,000 non-resident visitors to Medellin, of which more than 10,00 were foreigners, according to the mayor’s office.

Another 50,275 persons visited the “Orquideas, Pajaros y Flores” (orchids, birds and flowers) annual show in the Botanical Garden, according to the mayor. Medellin hotel occupation also rose, to around 65% during the 10-days-long festival.

The mayor’s office cited a study by the “Trivago” internet hotel reservation system indicating that 58.4% of foreign visitors to Medellin during the festival -- as well as the “Colombiamoda” fashion show (immediately preceding the festival) -- came from the USA. Travelers from Mexico, Spain, Peru and Ecuador rounded-out the top-five of foreign visitors. 

María Fernanda Galeano, Secretary of Economic Development, added that the event generated more than US$22 million in extra tourist revenues including hotels, taxis, restaurants and services.


Bird-watching in decades past may have been considered the province of biologists and eccentrics. But it’s becoming an ever-more-popular pathway for appreciating, enjoying and defending the incredible beauty of nature.

Now, two of metro-Medellin’s top bilingual prep schools – Colegio Theodoro Hertzl (CTH, see earlier Medellin Herald report on 08/24/2015) and Colegio Montessori – are opening-up the fascinating world of ornithology (bird science) to primary-level students.

It’s another positive sign that ever-more people recognize, respect, conserve and trumpet Colombia’s unique status as hosting more bird species -- some 1,925 documented to-date -- than any country in the world.

Two years ago, ornithology classes here debuted at Colegio Montessori, coordinated by auto-didact birding expert Nelson Giraldo, a board member of Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitologia (SAO) -- the Medellin-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that has pioneered wild-bird conservation and education here for nearly 35 years.

Giraldo told Medellin Herald in an interview that some 60 students so far have benefited from the once-a-week, semester-long ornithology offerings, which include both classroom studies and guided bird-walks.

Students proudly wear special bird-club jackets as they enjoy observing and learning the ecology of many spectacular native birds at locations including the Medellin Botanical Garden, the Medellin Zoo and nearby bird-rich areas including Angelopolis and the El Salado nature reserve in Envigado.

Typical class sizes are 15 students per semester, including third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, Giraldo explained.

The school provides supervised bus transport to birding sites as well as four binoculars, which the kids share among themselves.

Classroom materials include SAO-published or SAO-sponsored guides including Birds of the Aburra Valley, Birds of the Upper San Miguel Area (where the Rio Medellin is born), as well as guest lecture-expositions, including two by current SAO president Martin Estrada.

CTH Latest Entrant

More recently, Colegio Theodoro Hertzl (CTH) began offering ornithology classes to third-, fourth-, fifth- and six-graders, as primary-level English/science teacher and ornithology auto-didact Alejandro Cartagena explained to Medellin Herald in recent school visits here -- which included a bird-walk in the extensively forested, 6.3-hectare CTH campus.

While an inventory of birds at CTH has only been underway for less-than a year, Cartagena and students have already compiled a list of more than 100 species, opening eyes and insights into the lives of spectacular hummingbirds, tanagers, a resident barn-owl, migratory warblers, hawks and the amazing Common Potoo, which during daylight hours perches vertically, quietly and almost invisibly at the tail-end of certain branches.

The once-a-week, 1.5-hours-long ornithology offerings at CTH include classroom lectures on birding basics, bird anatomy, how to use binoculars, how to use field guides (including the SAO-published Photographic Guide to the Birds of Aburra Valley), how to use checklists, how to identify birds by their scientific nomenclature (Latin), by their local names (in Spanish), by their official English names, by sex (most birds are dimorphic) and by the family groups to which species belong.

Kids are also being introduced to the world-leading “Ebird” computerized system for recording bird observations.

They’re also learning about bird habitat and food requirements, which show that most birds and most other wildlife typically don’t benefit from destruction of natural forests, streams and pastures, or from monoculture plantings of trees or crops -- such as the massive planting of exotics including Eucalyptus and non-native pine trees.

Students also are helping to plant bird-friendly trees and bushes, which are now flourishing in several areas at CTH. In some places, lettered signs have been attached to plants and trees in bird-friendly areas so that kids can learn their scientific and Spanish names.

They’re also regularly bringing certain fruits and grains to bird feeders on the grounds – one way of teaching that “nature is a commitment,” as Cartagena explained here.

While many young children are by nature noisy and easily distracted, Cartagena – whose bubbling enthusiasm for birds radiates to his students – nevertheless makes a point to encourage his kids to walk, whisper and concentrate when on bird-walks.

To make some of the learning tasks less formidable, Cartagena divides-up the work, giving each student one bird to study, including its appearance, size, habitat and feeding/foraging habits (divided into diurnal and nocturnal birds, for example).

Some students – including fifth-grader Matias Quintero -- have shown exceptional ability to draw individual birds and rapidly make correct field identifications, as Medellin Herald learned during a visit to CTH and also during an earlier SAO-organized birding trip when he was accompanied by father Luis Fernando Quintero.

To date, CTH teacher Cartagena has been supplying most of the binoculars shared by his students. But there’s a proposal in-process that eventually might lead the school to buy several binoculars for shared student use.  It’s also possible that in future, Cartagena might have a chance to expand ornithology classes to students in more-advanced grade levels at CTH – including some of his former primary-level students.


Toronto, Canada-based Continental Gold announced July 29 that six of its security contractors died following a suspicious explosion July 28 at an illegal mine nearby its Buritica, Antioquia gold mine.

Just three days later, fellow Toronto-based miner Gran Colombia Gold announced August 1 that it is trying to deal with a massive outbreak of violence affecting its operations in Segovia and Remedios, Antioquia.

As for the Continental mining incident, “the contractors were performing routine underground inspections of a government-closed illegal mine as ordered by the national government of Colombia in order to maintain its post-intervention strategy,” Continental explained.

“Upon entering the underground mine, the contractors were accosted by illegal miners, followed by a subsequent explosion. A seventh contractor managed to escape and immediately notified all relevant authorities.”

“It is shameful that this incident has tarnished the remarkable progress made in establishing peace in the municipality over the past 18 months,” added Continental CEO Ari Sussman. “These efforts have been fully embraced by the local community, which has publicly voiced their strong preference for the benefits of legal versus illegal activities.”

Meanwhile, Gran Colombia Gold stated that despite the outbreak of renewed violence by illegal miners near its fully licensed, legal mining operations, the company “continues to negotiate in good faith with the Mesa Minera [association of mostly illegal and artesinal miners] of Segovia and Remedios toward formalizing activities of illegal mines operating within its mining title despite the actions being taken by certain illegal miners to disrupt the company’s operations.”

“Over the last 10 days, the company has been monitoring the actions of the Mesa Minera, a local mining collective comprised in its majority by illegal miners, as they attempted to convene a civil disruption and protest in response to the increased measures being implemented by the Colombian government to restrict illegal mining.

“The company estimates that approximately 30% to 40% of its workers are currently able to attend [their mining duties]. In addition, over the weekend, an explosion damaged a pipeline owned by the company that supplies water to 1,200 residents in Remedios.”

Meanwhile, according to a news report from Medellin-based El Colombiano, more shots were fired and explosions detonated in confrontations between illegal miners and Colombia’s “Esmad” riot police on July 31.

The rioters attacked police about three kilometers outside of Segovia where they had set-up a roadblock, according to Segovia Mayor Gustavo Tobon. Six policemen suffered injuries in the attack – five hurt by home-made bombs thrown by demonstrators and a sixth hit by shotgun fire.

However, Mesa Minera president Eliober Castañeda was quoted as saying that the violence was caused by police trying to break the roadblock and by shooting tear-gas canisters at protesters.

El Colombiano also quoted Jaime Arteaga -- director of the “Plan Buriticá” legal-mining promotional organization -- as saying that illegal miners have often used bombs, firearms or set fire to old tires inside mines to scare-off or attempt to asfixiate security officials that monitor illegal mines in the area. Buritica Mayor Humberto Castaño added that police and mining authorites have shuttered 213 illegal mines in the area over the past 18 months.

“Plan Buriticá” is led by the Mayor of Buriticá, the departmental government of Antioquia, plus 25 civil associations, companies and international organizations. The association is partly funded by the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), of which the government of Colombia is a member.


Medellin-based multinational packaged-foods giant Grupo Nutresa announced July 28 that its first-half 2017 net profit rose 1.9% year-on-year, to COP$236 billion (US$78.7 million).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) dipped by 1.3% year-on-year, to COP$527 billion (US$176 million), according to the company.

Sales inside Colombia grew 3.9% during the latest period, to COP$2.7 trillion (US$901 million), while sales abroad (excluding Venezuela) grew 5.5% year-on-year, to US$516 million.

The company also touted recent successful launches of “Tosh” branded baked-snacks and cold-infusion drink lines, as well as the new “Bénet” brand of nutritional powdered beverages.

“Gross profit, of COP$1.8 trillion [US$600 million], increased by 1.1% over the same period last year as a result of various efforts in productivity, the constant search for greater efficiencies, and the favorable prices of some raw materials,” according to Nutresa.

“The group’s operating profit amounts to COP$397.383 million [US$132 million], with an operating margin of 9.6%, which takes into account an increase in sales expenses associated with greater investments in our distribution channels,” according to the company.

Nutresa describes itself as the “the leader in processed foods in Colombia (60.5% market share) and one of the most relevant players in the sector in Latin America, with consolidated sales of COP$8.7 trillion [US$2.9 billion] in eight business units: cold cuts, biscuits, chocolates, Tresmontes Lucchetti [packaged foods], coffee, retail food, ice cream and pasta.”

The company boasts of a direct operating presence in 14 countries, with international sales in more than 80 countries.


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.


Medellin-based multinational utilities giant Grupo EPM announced July 25 that its first-half 2017 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 33% year-on-year, to COP$2.6 trillion (US$862 million), while net profits rose 78% year-on-year, to COP$1 trillion (US$331 million).

The city of Medellin – EPM’s sole shareholder – so far this year has netted COP$785 billion (US$260 million) of an expected full-year COP$1.6 trillion (US$530 million) in profit contribution, according to the company.

So far this year, EPM also has invested COP$1.6 trillion (US$530 million) in infrastructure in Colombia, with COP$770 billion (US$255 million) of that dedicated to the continuing construction of the US$5.5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric plant in Antioquia, according to the company.

EPM’s Medellin-based operations contributed 47% of earnings, while foreign subsidiaries contributed 35%. Colombian national subsidiaries contributed the remaining 18%, according to the company.

EBITDA improvement came despite lower electric-power prices in Colombia, but were offset by productivity improvements, EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta, said.

EPM Group’s return on equity so far this year is 12%, up from just 4% in first-half 2016, he added.

“The higher profitability is explained by the better operating results of 2017, compared to a first half of 2016 [that was] impacted by the El Niño phenomenon and by the [fire and power-outage] incident recorded at the Guatapé hydroelectric plant,” according to the company.

Financial indebtedness stands at 38%, “similar to last year. At the same time, the debt-to-EBITDA [ratio] indicator of the EPM Group closed the first half at 3.56, compared to 4.46 in 2016,” according to the company.

Total assets now stand at COP$45.1 trillion (US$14.9 billion), up 5%, while liabilities now total COP$25.6 trillion (US$8.5 billion), up 10%. Equity now stands at COP$19.5 trillion (US$6.4 billion), down 1%, while cash and cash equivalents now total COP$1.7 trillion (US$563 million), according to the company.


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.


Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM announced July 7 that its 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric plant project in Antioquia is now 70% complete – with an initial 300-megawatts (MW) of electric output scheduled to start at end-2018.

 The US$5.5 billion project – Colombia’s biggest-ever hydroelectric plant and its largest-single infrastructure project – is jointly owned by EPM and the departmental government of Antioquia.

Beyond the initial 300-MW generator, another seven turbine generators will be installed in stages between 2019 and 2021, when the plant reaches full capacity.

A 225-meters-high dam on the Rio Cauca is already 62% complete, while the underground area that houses the mechanical and transformer sections is now fully excavated, according to EPM.

“With EPM engineers and operatives, satisfactory progress has been made in the assembly of the hydromechanical and electromechanical equipment of what will be the new generation plant,” EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta said. “The construction of the main works is progressing in compliance with the schedule and with the commitment to deliver the first 300-MW to the country by the end of 2018.”

The Ituango hydroelectric project currently employs 11,247 – most from Antioquia, and only 24 foreigners, according to EPM.


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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.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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