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Medellin-based multinational insurance and health-care giant Grupo Sura just confirmed this afternoon (September 23) that its VaxThera biotech division will build a US$54 million plant and laboratory here in Antioquia for production of up-to-100-million bottles/year of vaccines for the Latin American market.

“The location was defined after a detailed analysis by a group of experts and consultants that took into account the conditions necessary for the company’s operations. Construction is projected to begin in the first quarter of 2022, to start operations in 2023,” according to the company announcement.

First word of the proposed plan to build the 35,000-square-meters plant in the metro Rionegro, Antioquia area, came from Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suarez last week. But confirmation only came today directly from VaxThera.

“Our plant for the production and packaging of vaccines in Colombia will be located in eastern Antioquia,” according to VaxThera’s official announcement.

The new plant and laboratory will generate 500 jobs here, dedicated to “research and development of vaccines for the prevention and treatment of emerging infectious diseases in the Latin American region,” according to VaxThera.

The plant’s output will follow strict standards as demanded by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Colombia’s Invima medical-standards regulator, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), according to the company.

While the plant will have capacity to produce around 100 million vials per year, VaxThera also “seeks to import and commercialize vaccines and other types of biologicals for Colombia and Latin America, and transfer the necessary technology to the country to produce and develop these types of products,” according to the company.

VaxThera aims to develop vaccines for treating coronavirus, dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, influenza and Zika, the company added.

Coltejer Shuts Down Completely

Friday, 10 September 2021 08:36 Written by

Medellin-based textile giant Coltejer revealed in a September 9 filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera oversight agency that it has decided to shutter all operations for what remains of 2021 -- and hinted of even more drastic, permanent measures coming.

“The suspension of productive activities will continue for the rest of this year 2021,” according to Coltejer.

“To date, the management team is analyzing some strategic issues that would allow it to reactivate some operations during the year 2022, among which we can highlight the following:

“a. The sale of fixed assets and product inventory.
“b. Real estate rental offer.
“c. Analysis of marketing strategies regarding the industry, clients, competitors and other market variables, which allows us to determine the relationship between the supply and the demand for textile products according to the capacity of the company.”

The Superfinanciera filing concludes with this ominous-sounding note about the company’s future: “We thank our suppliers, employees and other collaborators for all the support that they have given us.”

Coltejer and other major textile suppliers in Colombia have been suffering huge losses due to below-cost and contraband textile imports mainly from China and elsewhere.

The company racked up more red ink in second-quarter 2021 (see Medellin Herald 08/18/2021), shut down its non-woven fibers production in July (see Medellin Herald 07/16/2021) and announced closure of its historic, foundational factory in Itagüí last December (see Medellin Herald 12/18/2020).

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced September 6 that it’s teaming-up with France-based Elite Chocolate to train women from the Embera Eyabidá ethnic group here in Antioquia on specialized production and export of organic cacao for gourmet French chocolate.

According to USAID, “the cacao grown by women from the Embera Indigenous Council of Mutatá, Antioquia, begins to take its first steps to enter the French market.”

The initiative -- part of USAID’s Páramos y Bosques (highlands and forest) conservation program -- “facilitated a commercial alliance between the [Embera Council] and the French company La Finca Brava, whose business is to find the best cacao in Colombia to produce gourmet chocolate,” according to the agency.

“The initiative was joined by Elite Chocolate, a French organization that supports product markets in vulnerable communities,” according to USAID.

According to the partners, “the [Colombian] Pacific cacao has very special characteristics of flavor and aroma that come from the soil, the vegetation and the jungle, hence its high national and international demand. These characteristics, added to the organic process with which it is grown and upgraded, make it a highly desired product in specialized markets.”

To launch the initiative, three Embera women -- Laura Marcela Suescun Goez, Gloria Esther Bailarin Domico and Argelia Bailarin Bailarin (see photo, above) -- are traveling to France this month for 10 days of special training on production of specialty cacao, while also learning from French master chefs about gourmet chocolate production.

Back in Mutatá, Antioquia, other Embera women and their husbands subsequently will learn the same techniques and employ only the best raw materials, according to the project partners.

“It is projected that by 2022 the indigenous council of Mutatá will send the first quantities of organic cacao and later the product will be transformed into chocolate bars,” according to USAID.

Cacao production is just one of the commercial activities for the Embera de Mutatá Council, which currently guards 34,000 hectares of tropical forest dedicated to a “REDD+” project (Reduction of Emissions derived from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), supported by USAID.

The specialty cacao project not only will help boost the economy of the Embera community but also help master French chocolatiers and pastry chefs to produce the finest gourmet chocolates, according to La Finca Brava manager Gregory Le Heurt.

French consumers currently devour an astounding 36,000 tons of chocolate every 15 days -- the equivalent of two-thirds of Colombia’s entire annual production of cacao, Le Heurt added.

Colombia’s Commerce Ministry revealed this month that foreign direct investment (FDI) here skyrocketed by 62% in second quarter (2Q) 2021, on top of an impressive 17.6% year-on-year rise in gross domestic product (“PIB” in Spanish initials) during the same quarter.

One of the companies that is helping to spark this rebound is Medellin-based agricultural investor/producer/exporter Managro, simultaneously boosting both FDI and vital Colombian exports, thanks to Israeli capital, sophisticated management, high technology -- and admirable corporate social responsibility.

Honoring Managro’s efforts, Colombia Vice President Martha Lucia Ramirez, Israeli Ambassador Christian Cantor, Colombia Vice Minister of Agriculture Juan Gonzalo Botero, ProColombia President Flavia Santoro, Finagro Vice President Rodolfo Bacci and other top officials made a special trip last month to the recently renamed “Managro Fresh” produce packing-house in Valle del Cauca.

In her presentation, Vice President Ramirez specifically praised Managro’s Medellin-based executive director -- Israeli expat Chagai Stern -- for Managro’s novel innovations, big investments and positive contributions to Colombia’s economy.

For example: Managro just exported another 18-tons of Colombian avocadoes to South Korea, on top of a 20-tons shipment earlier this year.

Having purchased the former Pacific Fruits International packing house in 2020, Managro Fresh is now one of the biggest produce packers in Colombia -- with big plans for future growth, as Stern revealed to Medellin Herald in the following interview:

Medellin Herald: The Covid-19 quarantine in 2020 and the ‘Paro Nacional’ strike in 2021 as you know caused both health and economic hardships among Colombians and the entire world. Can you comment on what impact the quarantine and the strike had on Managro?

Stern: The pandemic didn't affect much the business. Though restaurants were closed, people eating at home were more conscious of eating healthy -- and the demand for avocado actually increased.

The strike did cause a lot of damage. No trucks were able to come to our facility and we lost seven containers of produce that were stored in our cold room. We couldn't even donate them as no trucks were able to get to us. The economic damage of the strikes was over US$1 million to us. In addition, many farmers lost their crops as they couldn't harvest and transport them to any packing house.

Medellin Herald: Now that the strike seems to be mainly quieted if not entirely settled, are you more confident about boosting production and exports of Managro products this year and next?

Stern: We are planning a major investment of buying 3,800 hectares for avocado. We are importing our own genetics and using Israeli software technology and irrigation system. The investment will allow us to export 2,200 containers a year of our own production in five years. The investment is US$60 million.

We are also coming out with new initiatives of social programs like ‘Mana Allies’ where we supply the farmers with monthly finance, technology-- what we call ‘Agritask’ -- and expertise.

Medellin Herald: While nobody could anticipate the 'Paro Nacional' road blockades that caused so much losses of fresh produce and farm products here, is there any sort of insurance for companies like Managro to help manage such losses?

Stern: Unfortunately there are no insurances for this.

Medellin Herald: Did the Colombia government offer any programs that helped Managro keep people employed during these crises of 2020-2021, and helped reduce some of the inevitable corporate revenue losses?

Stern: During the strike, the government gave us an option to freeze the contracts of our workers. Of course we did not take that option. Workers put their trust in our company for financial security and we didn't let them down. All of our workers got fully paid.


Colombia’s Comptroller-General announced this afternoon (September 6) that it has decided to go ahead with court claims totaling COP$4.3 trillion (US$1.13 billion) against 26 officials, companies and several politicians for alleged “gross negligence” that supposedly resulted in a 2018 diversion-tunnel collapse at the US$5 billion Hidroituango hydroelectric dam in Antioquia.

Following provisional charges brought last December (see Medellin Herald 12/03/2020), the Comptroller has now decided to dismiss its initial charges against former Antioquia Governor and former Medellin Mayor Aníbal Gaviria, as well as former project official Jorge Mario Perez Gallon, according to the Comptroller’s announcement today.

The 2018 diversion-tunnel collapse has caused a 115% hike in the original budgeted cost for Hidroituango, according to the Comptroller.

The following 26 persons, companies and politicians -- divided into four groups – all now face Comptroller charges, which they are entitled to dispute:

1, Hidroituango board members Federico Jose Restrepo Posada; Juan Esteban Calle Restrepo; Alejandro Antonio Granda Zapata; Fabio Alonso Salazar Jaramillo (a former Medellin Mayor); Alvaro Julia Villegas Moreno; Sergio Betancur Palacio; Alvaro de Jesus Vasquez Osorio; Ana Cristina Moreno Palacios; Ivan Mauricio Perez Salazar; Jesus Arturo Aristizabal Guevara; Maria Eugenia Ramos Villa; Rafael Andres Nanclares Ospina; former Medellin Mayor and Antioquia Governor Sergio Fajardo Valderama; and former Antioquia Governor Luis Alfredo Ramos.

2. Hidroituango managers Luis Guillero Gomez Atehortua and John Alberto Maya Salazar;

3. EPM-Hidroituango Vice President Luis Javier Velez Duque;

4. Construction contractors and consultants including Integral S.A; Integral Ingenieria de Supervision SAS (which absorbed previously involved Solingral SA; Construcoes e Comercio Camargo Correa SA; Constructora Conconcreto SA; Coninsa Ramon H SA; Ferrovial Agroman Chile SA; Sainc Ingenieros Constructores SA, and Ingenieros Consultores Civiles y Electricos SA (Ingetec).

The Comptroller also seeks to recover COP$400 billion (US$105 million) in insurance payments that would be advanced to EPM (Hidroituango’s over-all project overseer).

Hours after seeing the Comptroller’s announcement, EPM issued the following public statement:

“Faced with the failure of fiscal responsibility [alleged by the Comptroller], EPM with its technical, legal and financial team will study the consequences that this could have on the development of Hidroituango,” according to EPM.

“The persons [and companies] subject to fiscal responsibility will have five business days to file for remedies for reconsideration and appeal against this first-instance ruling, after being duly notified. This means that the effects of the ruling can be suspended until the appeals are resolved by the Comptroller General.

“EPM will be attentive to all subsequent actions carried out by the fiscal control entity, since if this first-instance decision is upheld, then EPM must have an adequate and planned structure that allows the continuity, without delay, of the execution of the Hidroituango project.”

Page 11 of 51

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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