On Tuesday, June 29, the Colombian Coffee Federation called a press conference to update everyone on the ongoing situation of both civil unrest and challenges brought on by COVID-19. The overall tone of the meeting was very serious yet with a glimmer of optimism for the coffee industry.
CEO, Roberto Velez shared some of the challenges that have disrupted Colombian coffee exports over the past few months. Beyond the many deaths resulting from COVID, the unemployment rate went up to 20% with a specific spike of 30% in the younger population. Mr. Velez shared that while the government tried to maintain its support the vandalism, protests, and barricades from a country-wide lockdown have created many mobility issues that have held back coffee exports.
The average volume for a typical month of exports in Colombia would be 1-1.2 million bags with a total of about 14 million bags of green coffee for an entire year. In May of 2021, Buenaventura Port was closed. In addition to the road closures, this caused exports to drop dramatically. As Mr. Velez stated, “Against these odds, we used every trick in the books and all types of magic to still export 350,000 bags of green coffee.” Part of this was achieved by going through Cartagena and Santa Marta. Unfortunately, 500,000 bags were not able to make it out of the ports.
In June, things started to get better and as roads opened exports rose back to normal levels. Through this time production and harvest has been relatively smooth. The main issue has been transportation restrictions and a severe shortage of shipping containers. Mr. Velez assures us with stalwart confidence, “it will not be enough to make us fail.” With this, he believes that within two months they will be back to full export capacity shipping 1-1.2 million bags in September.