Striking Colombian truck drivers said
Thursday they hope to negotiate a deal with the government over the weekend
to end the work stoppage and allow coffee to get to port without any delays
Coffee is piling up on farms in central growing regions while 150,000
trucks sit idle around the country. The drivers demand lower fuel prices
and other government concessions.
“If we are able to reach an agreement this weekend we will lift the
strike and coffee exports will not be affected,” drivers’ union chief Jorge
Garcia told Reuters. “This is what we are hoping for.”
The country’s main coffee export group, ASOEXPORT, warns that overseas
shipments will slow to a trickle if the drivers do not lift the strike by
the middle of next week.
The government has promised to cut gasoline and diesel costs by 17
cents per gallon starting next month, but truckers say that is not nearly
enough of a reduction.
The union also says that the administration of President Alvaro Uribe
has not delivered on promises of increasing the freight rates that are paid
“We are waiting for the government to call us to start negotiations,”
Garcia said, warning that the work stoppage will go on “indefinitely” until
a deal is reached.
Colombia is the world’s third biggest coffee producer after Brazil and
Vietnam. But shortages caused by heavy rains and a renovation program to
replace old coffee trees with new ones have trimmed production in the
Andean country. (Reuters)