Colombia has been in a state of unrest and at times turmoil since a wave of protests began on April 28th. While these protests are having a marked impact on the coffee industry in Colombia, we cannot ignore the ongoing violence across the country as police and government respond with force against civilian protesters, nor the difficulties that the Colombian people are facing as distribution of goods, services, and resources is being slowed and stopped altogether by logistical difficulties. There are food shortages being experienced currently across the country. Public transportation is limited and there is a curfew in place from 8pm to 6am daily, making travel and work difficult. Courier services are also experiencing difficulties with indefinite delivery timeframes for any deliveries. Our thoughts are with our team members, partners, and the people of Colombia through this time, and we are all hoping for a resolution to the conflict that will take strides toward moving the country forward.
There are many difficulties facing the coffee industry both inside of the country and for the exportation of coffee as a result of the protests. We want to explain some of these difficulties and provide context to our partners and clients about what this could mean in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Blockades are restricting roadways across the country and making the transport of coffee difficult or impossible in several places. In a statement released on May 3rd, the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (FNC) explains:
“...serious protest and road blockages have been reported affecting coffee supply chain. As a result, parchment deliveries to milling plants as well as green coffee transport to Colombia´s main ports has been affected. The road blockage to Buenaventura port has worsen[ed] during this weekend and has not reestablished yet despite the decision of the government to withdraw the tax reform. In addition, freight cargo carriers called to join the strike affecting transport availability during this week. Based on the current situation, some short-term mills production and shipment delays must be expected.”
While this means that immediately we will see delays in the milling and export of coffee, we also must anticipate lasting consequences following the initial difficulties. As production and harvest continues in many areas across Colombia, the slowing of any stage of the process will create a backlog of work that will likely ripple through the remainder of the season. We expect this will be felt most greatly at the ports and across the export of coffee; these stoppages and delays will compound the logistical struggles already facing the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The road to Buenaventura port is closed entirely and the port of Cartagena is full with bookings for many weeks to come as a result. We cannot currently project what these delays will look like going forward, and will work to ensure that our communication to all involved parties is transparent and timely as we begin to understand how this will impact people across the supply chain.
Communication inside of the country has been restricted, causing difficulties and in some cases complete disconnection from some of our producer partners in Colombia. The government has shut down internet access in some locations, cutting off a primary means of communication for many people and communities. This means that for the time being it’s impossible for us to know how all of our partners have been affected.
In order to support all of our partners both in Colombia and abroad, we will continue working to stay informed and to keep open communication with our team in Colombia as the situation continues to develop. We encourage everyone to stay informed about the ongoing situation, to support the Colombian people through this difficult time, and to stay in contact with your account managers for updates about how this will impact the coffee year going forward.