Congress approves the first stage of a bill that will lift the debt burden of 27,000 countryside workers, announced Colombia’s agriculture minister Thursday.
The third commissions of the Chamber and the Senate approved a change in the law to end the repayments of loans given to thousands of farmers under the National Program of Agricultural Reactivation (PRAN).
More than 20,000 of the debtors are coffee growers who have been severely affected by the winter rains.
The money made available through PRAN, which was managed by FINAGRO, the fund for financing the agricultural sector, reached $88 million over a period of ten years. Just under $40 million of the loans has been paid off so far.
The bill has two another two debates to go in the Chamber and the Senate. If approved, FINAGRO, will not enforce debt repayments when the amount outstanding is equal or less than $1,800. Three quarters of debtors owe less than this amount.
Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo said that if the bill is not approved there is the risk that FINAGRO would have to bankrupt a large number of small, agricultural workers in Colombia.
Restrepo added “With this they are given extra breathing space so they are not burdened with a judicial charge and the rainy season.”