The government’s recent purchase of potatoes, although completing a short-term goal and successfully ending recent strikes, did not satisfy the demands of Colombia’s farmers, according to an agricultural organizer.
Cesar Pachon, spokesman for “Dignidad Papera” (Dignitiy for Potato-growers), the group behind the most recent farmers strikes, told Colombia Reports that potato-growers are still selling their harvests “below production costs,” and that they are not “celebrating” the government’s recent purchase of potatoes – as had been reported in the local media – because they recognize that the government’s purchase was a “momentary” and “short-term” solution to their problems.
Pachon told local media that the government had already effectively purchased 220 tons from the potato growers, and that would continue until Wednesday, when they would meet with the government to finalize a balance for daily government purchases of 660 tons, with a goal of daily purchases of 1100 tons, thereby “guaranteeing a price that at least matches production costs.”
However, according to Pachon, the purchases “were not sufficient,” adding that the nation’s farmers still felt ignored by the government. He called for the creation of new laws protecting the nation’s agricultural sectors to avoid having to “strike every year to achieve something.”
“The money we are losing is not our fault, because we complete our function in society, which is giving food security to our people,” said Pachon.
He argued that farmers in Colombia needed a guarantee that when they sell their harvests, they would at least recuperate enough money to pay back the bank loans and earn enough extra to “sustain the family… enough to send the children to school and to build a home.”
Pachon was not hopeful about the long-term prospects of the dialogues with President Juan Manuel Santos, pointing to the president’s neo-liberal politics and support for international free trade agreements as undermining the economic security of Colombia’s agricultural sector, which he claims lacks modern technology and government-agribusiness alliances found in other countries such as the United States.
“The Constitution of Colombia guarantees protection of the nation’s farmers… Unfortunately, right now we are seeing the opposite,” said Pachon. “Here in Colombia we have all that we need to grow food. We have the people, the land, and the water, the only thing we are missing is support from the government.”
- Interview with Cesar Pachon
- Campesinos celebran que Gobierno inicie el cumplimiento de acuerdos (Caracol Radio)