Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 31st 2013 Contents OCTOBER 2013 • WEEK FIVE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
REGIONAL | BG25
Navigating Colombia s mountainous
countryside was even harder than usual for
three weeks this past summer, when thou-
sands of farmers blocked roads to protest
poor conditions in rural areas.
The immediate causes of their anger were
expensive fertiliser and recent free-trade
deals with the United States and Europe.
Their protest has, however, drawn attention
to deeper problems in Colombia s coun-
tryside, problems caused by decades of
armed conflict and official neglect.
In the scramble to quell the protest, the
government has negotiated with coffee
growers, milk producers and potato and
rice farmers, giving in to many of their
demands in the face of plunging approval-
ratings and looming elections next year. On
October 7 it imposed temporary tariffs and
quotas on imports of potatoes, onions,
beans, tomatoes, powdered milk, fresh
cheese, milk and whey. On October 19, fac-
ing the threat of new protests, it began pur-
chasing 3,000 tons of potatoes directly
from farmers at better-than-market prices.
Meeting every week in different cities,
farmers and government officials are hoping
to formulate a national agricultural policy
by the end of the year. They are trying to
solve a problem before a diagnosis has been
made, however: Colombia has not con-
ducted a nationwide agricultural census
The government is plowing ahead with
plans to conduct one next year, although
the head of the national statistics agency,
DANE, resigned on October 7, arguing that
a census should not be held in an election
year. President Juan Manuel Santos says
that the country can wait no longer, arguing
that it is "flying without instruments" in
setting agricultural policy.
In the four decades since the previous
agricultural census, Colombia s conflict
involving leftist guerrillas, right-wing para-
militaries and the armed forces has flared.
The most notable effect on the countryside
has been the exodus of as many as 5.7 mil-
lion people. Since 1985 an estimated 16
million acres of farmland has been aban-
doned or illegally seized.
A lesser-known result of the conflict has
been inefficiency. A two-year study led by
Ana María Ibáñez of the University of the
Andes in Bogotá found that farmers who
have not been direct victims of the conflict,
but who live with the presence of armed
fighters, tend to favor fast-growing crops
that offer several harvests a year.
Many also turn cropland into pasture for
cattle, which are easily sold if things become
nasty. They stay away from permanent
crops, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber and
fruit trees, which require more investment
and time to yield a harvest, though they
are more profitable in the long run.
This strategy seeks to "minimise the risk
of the conflict, but does not maximise prof-
its," Ibáñez says, producing low investment
and low productivity.
During the past decade Colombia has
made tremendous progress in reducing the
scale and intensity of the conflict. Since
last year Santos government has been
engaged in peace talks with the F.A.R.C.
rebels, aiming for a permanent cease-fire.
The one point on which they have reached
a draft agreement is rural development.
Ending the conflict would not necessarily
reverse the subsistence mentality. Even in
areas where guerrillas are no longer so active,
farmers continue to favor crops that offer
a quick turnaround. out of what Ibáñez
calls "pure inertia."
It is also a matter of finance: After years
of thin earnings, few farmers have the funds
to swap their crops for something more
In a post-conflict Colombia, policies
would have to reach beyond reconstruction
and reparations in the countryside to get
farmers back on their feet. A healthier har-
vest is still many seasons away.
Farming in Colombia:
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, in
collaboration with the Rural Agricultural Devel-
opment Authority (RADA), on October 23
launched the Irish Potato Programme for the
crop year 2013/14.
The proposed production target is 600
hectares for autumn; 600 hectares for spring;
and 50 hectares for summer. In order to achieve
this, the ministry will be providing support in the
sum of J$68 million towards the autumn and
Speaking at the launch held at the Ministry's
Hope Gardens offices in St Andrew, portfolio
Minister, Roger Clarke, said increasing local po-
tato production is one of the strategies being
employed to reduce the country's high food im-
He said that the programme aims to: improve
access to markets for farmers, who plant Irish
potato; supply 100 per cent of the national de-
mand (15 million kilogrammes) of table Irish po-
tato by 2015, in keeping with the RADA
marketing plan; and provide crop care support
(chemicals) for 50 per cent of the targeted
acreages for fall and spring.
Clarke said private grants are being pursued
for 40 hectares for 2013. These hectares will be
specifically for use by young people and women.
He said the Jamaica Social Investment Fund
(JSIF) will be providing J$50 million to retrofit a
storage facility at Lydford in St Ann. "We will
also be making available J$50 million if we have
to intervene to stabilise prices...we want to
make sure that the price doesn't drop below the
production cost for our farmers," he stated.
As it relates to reports of a shortage of Irish
potato on the local market, the Clarke said "it
was kind of deliberate, because local farmers
had some Irish potato still. For six or seven
months, we never imported one pound of Irish
potato into this country, and if we are going to
encourage our farmers to be in production, we
are not going to allow them to be defeated by
imports. Irish potato can be grown in Jamaica...
we are putting the facilities in place so that we
can be self-sufficient, and also export. There is
market for it in the region.
"The good news is that the country was al-
most 80 per cent self-sufficient in the produc-
tion of table potatoes in 2012," he said.
(Jamaica Information Service)
2013/14 Irish Potato
After four years and US$409 million spent, the renovation
and expansion of Lynden Pindling Airport in Nassau, Bahamas,
With the final bolt in place, the ribbon was cut on October
23 to open a 105,000-square-foot terminal for domestic flights
and international departures.
A terminal for US departures opened in March 2011, followed
by an international arrivals terminal in October 2012.
The newest terminal primarily serves US visitors traveling
between Nassau and the Out Islands, and Canadian, British
and other foreign nationals departing Nassau for destinations
outside the US.
Bahamian carriers now share space in the new terminal with
international lines, including British Airways and Air Cana-
da.The 606,000-square-foot airport is the largest in the Bahamas
and the largest infrastructure project undertaken in the country.
It now can accommodate five million passengers per year, 50
per cent more traffic than before the expansion.
Passenger volume is expected to increase with the December
2014 scheduled opening of the Baha Mar mega-resort in Nassau.
Also, there are resort projects in the Out Islands. Airport facilities
include 24 retail locations and 16 restaurants, bars and lounges.
All passengers can down a Bahama Mama rum punch served
at the bars, whether they are going to London, George Town
on Exuma or Deadman s Cay on Long Island in the Out Islands.
"We wanted to assure that all of our terminals reflected a
sense of place in the artwork, restaurants and the retail space
that feature Bahamian-made products," said Vernice Walkine,
president and chief executive officer of the Nassau Airport
"The Bahamas consistently welcomed a record number of
visitors in recent years, but we re not resting on our laurels
and will continue to be aggressive in attracting visitors to our
islands," said Obie Wilchcombe, Minister of Tourism.
"Tourism generates 75 per cent of the GNP, and the new
airport is a tangible symbol of our vision for Nassau and our
commitment to delivering an exceptional visitor experience,
from arrival to departure," he said. (Caribbean News Digital)
Bahamas airport completes overhaul
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