Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coal to Newcastle, and Coffee to Colombia

Sacks of coffee waiting to be roasted - some of them imported.

Back when I was growing up, my mother used the phrase 'coal to Newcastle' whenever something got shipped to a place that was supposed to be producing it. (The UK town of Newcastle was known for coal production - until a strike shut down the mines and forced it to import coal.)

Bags of coffee beans, some imported, some Colombian.

Now that's happening to Colombia and coffee.

Today a coffee factory owner displayed bags of green coffee beans imported from Ecuador, Venezuela and even as far away as Vietnam, which he's going to roast and grind to make Colombia's best-known beverage.

To be sure, Colombia still exports high-quality coffee. The imported bags contained miscolored, mostly low-quality beans of the low-priced robusto variety, mostly to be consumed domestically as 'tinto.' Most of Colombia's high-quality arabico beans, which are grown in the mountains, are exported under the brand name 'Cafe de Colombia.'
The large bean is Colombian,
the two right ones from Vietnam. 

Several factors have contributed to reducing Colombia's coffee production: last year's torrential rains  devastated lots of agricultural areas (and this year's upcoming rains are supposed to be even worse). Related to that, global warming has reduced the coffee harvests in many areas. And, the factory owner said, displacement of peasants by Colombia's seemingly endless armed conflict has driven many peasants off of their farms, leaving the lands unproductive.

A cup of Colombian coffee.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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