For many years, migratory coffee pickers from the departments of the southern coffee zones have travelled up to the Eje Cafetera or “Coffee Axis,” for work. However, in recent times they have begun returning home with seeds and planting them in order to cultivate the national crop in their own regions.
Figures from the National Federation of Coffee Growers show that the area used to cultivate coffee between 2002 and 2010 increased nationally by 6%. When the statistics are broken down, it shows that growth in the south has far outperformed the national average with the number of acres of coffee cultivated in Huila increasing by 50%, in Nariño by 45% and in Cauca by 16%.
Comparatively, in the traditional coffee growing departments, where there is concern about the ageing workforce, the number of acres used for coffee cultivation decreased; by 11% in Risaralda, 6.9% in Caldas and 2% in Quindio. Maria Gomez Estrada, a member of the Committee of Coffee Growers, said that currently Huila “has surpassed all other departments and is now on a par with Antioquia as it produces coffee all year round and has a stable labor force.” She also added that Huila is attracting the attention of multinational company Starbucks.
The director of the National Federation of Coffee Growers, Luis Genaro Muñoz stressed that coffee from Nariño has the highest price in the country while the special varieties from Huila have carved out a space in the market. However the plant pest “roya” has taken hold in Nariño, a peril which affects 741,000 acres nationally.