Colombia’s new program designed to deliver subsidies directly to coffee farmers went into effect Monday, but that might not be enough to ward off the second national industry strike this year.
On Sunday, Minister of Agriculture Francisco Estupiñan joined representatives from the National Federation of Coffee Farmers (FNC) at the program’s official launch event.
In theory, the new delivery system will turn over subsidy payments directly to the farmer at the time of sale.
According to an official Agriculture Ministry press release, 66 transactions were carried out at Sunday’s event, held in a coffee cooperative in Cauca, with payments ranging from $2 to $558.
Government officials said “significant technological efforts” were required to implement the program before the date agreed upon in last month’s negotiations with coffee workers, but indicated that the system worked according to plan in all of its initial trials, with delivery time reduced from five minutes, as predicted, to no more than two.
In an interview Monday, Ministry of Agriculture Press Secretary Jairo Corredor told Colombia Reports that, “from [Monay] on, the idea is to have the program functioning in more than 500 coffee-producing municipalities.
“They performed all the tests yesterday, and everything went very well,” he said. “Obviously over the course of the week,” he said, “we will have more information […] but they performed the tests, and it all worked as it was supposed to.”
Left unclear, however, was whether the efforts will be enough to stop the national coffee strike planned for August 19th, which could devastate an industry already struggling to recover from falling coffee prices and last year’s crop disaster.
A representative of the coffee workers in last month’s negotiations signaled previously that the new subsidy program could be enough to keep coffee workers out of the massive national strikes on Augsut 19, but neither spokesmen from the FNC nor industry advocate group Coffee Workers’ Dignity was available for comment today regarding the coffee workers’ current position on next week’s protests.
Corredor, however, is not so sure. “As soon as you have resolved one issue,” he said, “[the coffee workers] will come out with another issue, and another one after that […] the coffee workers haven’t said, or communicated to us, that they are stopping the strike.”
His assessment of the situation: “No one can stop the work stoppage.”
Colombia is facing a series of threatened strikes, all planned to kick off next Monday. Apart from the coffee growers, a number of other economic sectors and students threaten to effectively shut down the country.
- Interview with Jairo Corredor (Ministry of Agriculture)
- Comenzo pago inmediato de subsidios a los cafeteros