Thursday, September 21, 2017

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 Devimed.

“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.


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."


Medellin-based Compañía de Empaques – makers of fibers for industrial, agricultural, construction and infrastructure sectors – announced this month that its first-half (1H) net profits fell to COP$1.96 billion (US$662,000), compared to COP$13.5 billion (US$4.5 million) in 1H 2016.

While sales rose year-on-year -- to COP$193 billion (US$65 million) in 1H 2017 versus COP$179 billion (US$60 million) in 1H 2016 -- cost of sales rose considerably, to COP$160 billion (US$54 million) in 1H 2017 versus COP$142 billion (US$48 million) in 1H 2016, according to the company.

Compañía de Empaques boasts 75 years of experience in manufacturing specialty fibers for packing and storage of materials as well as for reinforcing materials used in mining and construction.


Medellin-based Enka de Colombia – producer of fibers and filaments including nylon and polyester - this month reported that its first-half (1H) 2017 net profits fell to COP$1.9 billion (US$641,000), down sharply from COP$9.3 billion (US$3 million ) in 1H 2016.

Sales also dropped year-on-year, to COP$84.8 billion (US$28.6 million) in 1H 2017, versus COP$92.5 billion (US$31 million) in 1H 2016.

The Enka plant, in the Medellin suburb of Girardota, also recycles PET plastic for tire manufacturers, plastics producers and textile producers.

Coltejer Losses Nearly Double

Meanwhile, Medellin-based textile manufacturer Coltejer this month reported that its 1H 2017 losses rose to COP$21.6 billion (US$7.3 million), compared to a COP$11.6 billion (US$3.9 million) loss in 1H 2017.

Sales also dropped sharply, to COP$72.8 billion (US$24.6 million), versus COP$122.8 billion (US$41 million) in 1H 2016.

Mexico-based Grupo Kaltex is the majority (82%) share owner of Coltejer.

Colombian textile producers have been complaining of a loss of sales this year due to continuing contraband clothing imports, a slowdown in the Colombian economy and a hike in value-added tax, which penalizes retail sales.


Familia SA 2Q 2017 Profits Soar Year-on-Year

Thursday, 24 August 2017 12:37 Written by

Medellin-based multinational personal hygiene products manufacturer Familia SA announced this month that its second quarter (2Q) 2017 net profits soared to COP$51 billion (US$17 million), up from a COP$51 billion (US$17 million) net loss in 2Q 2016.

Sales also rose in 2Q 2017, to COP$583 billion (US$196 million), versus COP$570 billion (US$191 million) in 2Q 2016, according to the company, which manufactures toilet paper, napkins, diapers, feminine hygiene products and other paper-based products for sale in 20 Latin American countries.

Grupo Familia was founded in 1958, initially as an importer of Scott toilet paper. But it now has four Colombian manufacturing plants -- in Medellin, Rionegro, Cajica, Cauca – a fifh plant in Aconcagua, Argentina, and a sixth plant in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Former employees involved in an alleged toilet-paper price-fixing scheme with other companies several years ago have since been fired. Familia also paid a COP$62 billion (US$20.8 million) fine last year to settle those charges.

 


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