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Colombia: strict quality control even with low grower prices.

The Colombian authorities have promulgated new regulations to ensure that the quality of roasted coffee exports is maintained.

The regulations, which will be enforced by the Coffee Grower Federation, state that all roasted, ground and other coffee destined for export must be fresh and of Excelso (top) grade.

Manufacturers of export-destined roasted coffee must comply with Ministry of Health sanitary requisites. Coffee exported in individual packaged units for retail distribution must have a humidity content not exceeding 3% and must be packaged to ensure quality, aroma and taste for at least nine months. There is a similar humidity provision for roasted coffee shipped in bulk, which must be exported in such a manner as to ensure its quality for at least four months.

Exporters of roasted coffee who wish to utilize trade symbols of the Growers Federation must first apply to the organization for permission to do so. The Federation reserves the right to refuse such permission, on a case by case basis.

Under the regulations, the Federation is empowered to test samples of unprocessed and roasted coffee, bound for export, and to inspect sanitary and processing conditions in industrial premises.

The new regulations have been introduced because roasted coffee exports could become a significant dollar-earner in the wake of the International Agreement quota system. Colombia has augmented all classes of coffee exports in a bid to compensate for the depressed prices that have resulted from the demise of the coffee pact.

Accordingly, the authorities are anxious to ensure that, despite the rapid growth in Milds shipments, quality standards are rigorously maintained.

Another reason for the regulations is that coffee export restrictions have been eased in recent month as a result; it is now easier for new exporters to enter the field. In view of this and the liberalization of the sector generally, the Growers' Federation feels it is essential that it have statutory powers to enforce quality standards.

Meanwhile, in western plantation zones of Narino, Cauca and Valle, efforts are continuing to control the spread of broca - a parasite that preys on coffee cherries. Attempts to limit losses from the parasite have met with success on farms whose owners have taken the necessary remedial action. But in other cases, some smallholders have lost nearly all their crop either because they lacked the cash to finance control measures or because they applied them inadequately.

As yet, though, broca is limited to western zones and, in terms of national production, losses are still only peripheral. This situation, however, could change in time if broca continues to spread, as seems possible. Many smallholders who already have to face the cost of combating royal coffee rust fungus may be hard-pressed to survive financially, if, on top of this, they have to fight broca.

But for the moment, there is little cause for alarm on the national level, and the country is expected to meet its short-term production targets without difficulty. This year's harvest should be at least 13 million bags.

Climatic conditions have been generally favorable, though torrential rains triggered landslides in May that temporarily blocked rail access to the country's principle coffee-export port, Buenaventura. Consequently some Milds consignments were delayed.

Though conditions have now returned to normal, there remains to constant danger of new landslides in the rugged, mountainous terrain that separates the port from inland regions. The government, however, has announced a multi-million dollar program to modernize communications, and planters hope that priority will now be accorded to upgrading Buenventura's precarious road and rail links with coffee zones.

On the political front, there has been positive news: Colombia's communist-led guerrillas have finally started peace talks with the government, and hopes are rising that an end to the 27-year insurgency may at last be in sight - a matter of no little interest to planters.

Though the 8,000 or so guerrillas have hitherto met with only marginal success in their attempts to penetrate plantation regions, nevertheless the insurgents have year by year encroached closer on coffee-growing districts. The authorities have long feared that, sooner on later, the rebels will infiltrate such areas and launch economic-sabotage campaigns as they have successfully done in oil and gold producing regions.

This potential threat to coffee output has now been averted, at least temporarily, following the opening of peace negotiations between the guerrillas and the authorities. Though the rebels have yet to declare a cease-fire, they are unlikely to extend their operations to new zones for as long as the peace talks continue.

For the time being, then, most coffee farms remain secure. Planters are keeling; their fingers crossed that a percent peace accord will be signed.

In the meantime, in the export sphere, Colombia continues to take advantage of the free world market by aggressively seeking out new clients. As reported previously, the Colombians last year increased their participation in the Japanese market to nearly 20%.

Now statistics released by the Growers' Federation reveal that Colombian Milds are also gaining acceptance in Scandinavia. Last year Colombia's share of the Scandinavian market grew 5 to 31%.

Consignments of Colombian Milds to the region topped 1.3 million bags, and the increase in market - share 10% hike - was registered in Norway Colombian today supplies roughly a third of the coffee imports of Norway, Finland and Sweden, while its participation in the Danish market is estimated to be 21%.
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Author:Nares, Peter
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:891
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