Top Stories
Top Stories
Wires

Colombia aid for coffee farmers falling short amid crisis -growers

BOGOTA, April 5 (Reuters) - Nearly $50 million in government aid for Colombia's struggling coffee farmers is not enough to keep producers afloat amid a global price crisis, the country's growers' federation said on Friday.

Coffee prices on the New York market have hovered at or below $1 per pound so far in 2019 and hit a fresh 13-year low this week as output surpasses demand on the global market.

The Colombian coffee federation has repeatedly asked for aid for farmers, including subsidies, debt relief and help with fertilizer costs.

President Ivan Duque's administration has so far pledged to spend 155.5 billion pesos ($49.6 million) on help for growers.

But that figure is not enough to help some 540,000 families who make their living from coffee, the federation's council of directors said in a statement. The statement did not say how much the federation would ideally want for growers.

"Given the magnitude of the crisis caused by the sharp fall in international prices, the resources handed over by the government are insufficient," the federation said.

The government has agreed to give subsidies of up to 30,000 pesos per 125 kg (275 lb) shipment of coffee when the domestic price falls below 715,000 pesos per shipment. The internal price per shipment was 692,000 pesos on Thursday.

The subsidy parameters "absolutely do not acknowledge the reality of the sector," the federation said.

Production costs per shipment are about 782,000 pesos, 90,000 pesos above what farmers earn on the domestic market, it said.

The federation will distribute the aid under the conditions set by the government, but will continue to advocate urgently for higher subsidies and debt relief for farmers.

"(The federation) will continue to use all institutional routes to ensure that the national government thoroughly understands and supports coffee-growers in an effective way amid this difficult situation."

The federation said in February it would discuss a possible unlinking from the New York benchmark price with other producers of high-quality arabica and buyers in an effort to sell coffee above production costs.

Exporters and importers say such a move could send buyers looking for other producers.

The Agriculture Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

($1 = 3,132.78 Colombian pesos)

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Helen Murphy and James Dalgleish)