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Medellin-based FCM Global announced October 3 that it has become the first Colombian medical-marijuana producer to win all four required licenses for cultivation, processing, manufacture and export of “low-THC” cannabis-oil extracts.

“Recently issued by the Colombian Ministry of Justice, this export license complements FCM’s existing regulatory approvals, granted to the organization in August 2017, to legally cultivate, process, and manufacture low-THC medical cannabis oil extracts,” according to FCM.

FCM is “well-positioned to create CBD [cannabidiol hemp oil] extracts at a low cost of production and to distribute finished oils for domestic and international markets with legalized medical/research frameworks,” according to the company.

“Our purpose is to serve as a collaborative partner to pharmaceutical firms, research organizations, and other wellness-focused companies, and to help develop new scientific formulations and extracts that meet our clients’ specific needs within these critical sectors,” added FCM CEO Carlos Velasquez.

Colombia’s regulatory framework, “ideal equatorial growing location, and deep talent pool of medical cannabis experience makes it the best place on Earth to produce scalable volumes of terpene-rich cannabinoid extracts in an environmentally-friendly way,” according to the company, which has offices in Medellin and operations in the nearby suburb of La Ceja, Antioquia.

FCM’s “co-sourced Colombia” model “enables finished goods manufacturers globally to benefit from Colombia’s comparative advantages in medical cannabis (accelerated and lower-cost research, cultivation, and oil extraction) without sacrificing levels of control, efficiency, or quality,” according to the company.

PharmaCielo Update

Another Medellin-based medical-marijuana company that’s well-along in obtaining all required licenses is PharmaCielo (see "PharmaCielo Buys Marijuana Farm, Nursery in Rionegro," Medellin Herald, July 25, 2016.)

Aside from PharmaCielo and FCM Global, other Colombian companies obtaining some (but not all four) licenses include Cannavida, Ecomedics, Cannalivio, Econnabis and Pideka, while 22 other companies have petitioned for licenses, according to a recent report from Colombian business newspaper Portafolio.

The proposed licenses are for operations in Antioquia, Cauca, Casanare, Magdalena, Meta, Santander, Cundinamarca, Tolima and Valle del Cauca, according to that report.


Some 250 executives of some of the world’s top gold-mining companies are forecast to attend the second annual Colombia Gold Symposium November 14-15 at Hotel San Fernando Plaza in Medellin.

According to symposium organizer Paul Harris, delegates will hear presentations from more than 15 exploration and development companies including Minesa, Continental Gold, Red Eagle Mining and Antioquia Gold.

This year’s edition of the symposium also features a session on the copper potential of this region, “which is attracting increasing interest from large producers as well as explorers, particularly given the increasing copper price environment,” according to Harris.

On that front, Gloria Prieto of the Colombian Geological Survey (CGS) will provide an overview of Colombia’s copper potential and explain an upcoming auction of copper-exploration concessions.

“In terms of Colombia’s gold potential, Orosur will provide an update about the Anza project where it recently restarted drilling, Gran Colombia Gold will discuss the high-grade mineralization it is finding at its Marmato project and Tim Coughlin of Royal Road Minerals will talk about exploration in Nariño, one of Colombia’s most promising areas now that the civil conflict with the FARC is ending,” Harris added.

Meanwhile, Silvana Habib, president of Colombia’s National Mining Agency, and Santiago Angel of the Colombian Mining Association, will discuss “efforts to improve [mining] sector administration,” while a regulatory session will include a roundtable discussion by natural-resource lawyers discussing “strategies for companies to adopt to deal with particular aspects of bureaucracy,” he said.

On a related front, Birsa International will head a session on optimizing community relations; Intera will talk about responsible water management and communication; Brigitte Baptiste of the Humboldt Institute will discuss whether and how mining can be compatible with the environment; and Control Risks will talk through the issues and opportunities arising from Colombia’s peace process with guerilla groups.

Field trips following the conference include visits to San Matias (Cordoba Minerals), San Ramon (Red Eagle Mining), El Roble (Atico Mining), Buritica (Continental Gold) and Anza (Orosur).

On the finance front, the symposium will include expert speakers from Canadian bank CIBC, Peru’s Kallpa Securities, EY, Oreninc and NortonRose Fulbright, Harris added.


Colombia Visa Changes Take Effect November 2

Friday, 29 September 2017 14:49 Written by

Colombia’s foreign ministry (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriorores) has announced that changes to its visa regulations will take effect November 2.

In the announcement (see complete text in Spanish here: http://legal.legis.com.co/document?obra=legcol&document=legcol_74fa455ce7e44df19296af36ef78d8e8), the Ministry clarifies that it’s regrouping many different existing visa categories into three main categories: visitor (V), migrant (M) and resident (R).

While some changes are superficial -- changes of words or categories, but not meaning -- some clarifications are worth noting.

For example: “Visitors” for tourism, for investigating business opportunities, for contract negotiations and for sales representations are allowed stays of up-to-180 days, but such visitors cannot do local contract "work."

However, “visitors” attending trade shows, conferences, sporting events, artistic events, doing film productions, executing journalism assignments, occupying temporary corporate assignments (for a non-Colombia-headquartered company) and performing certain volunteer projects are allowed to “work” at those assignments or events, according to the Ministry.

Those obtaining “migrant” visas (that is, those intending to become permanent residents) who are married to a Colombian national -- or parents of a Colombian-born adopted child -- likewise can “work” in Colombia for up-to-three-years, and also can apply to become a “resident” after two years.

In addition, “migrants” that obtain a local work contract or become a partner in a commercial enterprise here can obtain a “resident” visa after five years.

For real-estate investors, “migrant” visas can be obtained by investing at least 350 minimum Colombian monthly salaries. The current Colombian minimum monthly salary -- COP$738,000 – multiplied by 350 equals COP$258 million, or about US$88,000 at current COP/USD exchange rates and current Colombian legal salary minimums.

To obtain the "migrant" visa, the real-estate investment must be accompanied by proof of free title (“certificado de libertad y tradicion del inmueble adquirido que pruebe titularidad”) as well as proof of registry of the foreign funds used for the purchase (“communicacion expedida por el Departamento de Cambios Internacionales del Banco de la Republica”).

For those seeking a “migrant” visa as a retiree, the applicant must show that a pension (such as Social Security or a private-sector pension) is at least three times the Colombian minimum monthly salary (COP$2,214,000 or about US$753). Alternatively, an applicant could get a “migrant” visa if receiving at least 10 times the minimum monthly salary (COP$7,380,000 or about US$2,510) from investments with regular payouts (such as annuities).

For “empresarios” seeking a “migrant” visa, you must show a capital investment of at least 100 minimum monthly salaries (COP$73.8 million or about US$25,000). For “independent” professionals, a “migrant” visa can be obtained  if your bank records indicate earnings of at least 10 minimum monthly salaries over the prior six months.

Real-estate investors, commercial partners, contracted workers and pensioners with “migrant” visas also can apply for “resident” visas after five years.

In addition, registered foreign direct investors (FDIs) investing at least 650 minimum monthly salaries (COP$480 million, or about US$163,000) can apply for a “resident” visa.

Foreigners married to Colombian nationals also will continue to qualify for “resident” visas, as in prior visa regulations. “Resident” visas are good for five years and are renewable.

Visa applications are now processed on-line through the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores web-site (see: http://www.cancilleria.gov.co/en/procedures_services/visas).

After expats submit their applications, they typically make a subsequent trip to Ministry offices in Bogota to obtain their visa, although some specialist agencies and lawyers here in Medellin offer to handle that process for you.


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.


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SILLETEROS PARADE 2016 by JOHN AND DONNA STORMZAND (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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