Workers flock to coffee harvest in Colombia
By Agence France-Presse
The coffee crop splashes the green mountains of Colombia with red, attracting a floating workforce of indigenous people in the fields of South America’s second-largest producer after Brazil.
The laborers flock to the coffee-growing regions in the shadow of the Andes in peak harvesting season between October and December.
“We made a sort of campaign to bring more people to the Antioquia coffee region, so they could help us pick coffee, because during harvest times, we are short on workers,” said Jose Mauricio Restrepo of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation.
Colombia, the fourth-largest economy in South America, has 931,000 hectares of coffee under cultivation, driving its main export after oil and mining.
The largest haciendas in the coffee-growing northwestern region of Antioquia are in Ciudad Bolivar.
The coffee harvesters arrive on the town square on Sunday to embark on the jeeps that take them to the farms, where they are given lodging and food during the three-month harvest season.
Around 4,000 of the town’s 20,000 population are coffee harvesters, and that number is swelled in the harvesting season as another 25,000 arrive from different regions of Colombia, many of them indigenous Embera and Zenu.
“It means two things: there is a good product, a good quality and there is volume and this is really attractive to coffee dealers and exporters,” said Restrepo.
The activity in Ciudad Bolivar is replicated across the departments of the so-called Coffee Region: Risaralda, Caldas and Quindio.
More than half of the national harvest, approximately 55 percent, is collected in the second half of the year, and a half-a-million families live off the crop.
By the end of 2017, more than 14 million bags of coffee will have been harvested in the South American country, according to the National Federation of Coffee Growers.