Coffee farmer Pedro Ruiz Galleano, shown in Armenia last year during a protest against poor industry conditions, says fickle weather poses problems, too.
In Armenia, located in the heart of the prime Colombian coffee-growing region known as the “Coffee Axis,” Carlos Arturo López Ríos vents about the issues facing his industry. He has seen coffee prices fall from nearly $3 a pound in 2011 to less than $1.10 in recent weeks, a decline that has included several dips below $1 during the past year. Meanwhile, the cost of fertilizers and pesticides have vaulted upward, and worker shortages have threatened to undermine productive harvests. Across the Coffee Axis, or Eje Cafetero, and the country’s other coffee-farming regions, Colombia’s 500,000 smallholder growers are struggling to feed their families as costs outpace income and debt mounts. Various factors underlie the trend, including increased production of cheaper Brazilian coffee—which has further depressed already-low world prices—and, farmers say, insufficient subsidies from the Colombian government to help them cope until economic conditions improve. The... [Log in to read more]