Colombian Coffee is a Protected designation of origin granted by the European Union (September 2007) that applies to the coffee produced in Colombia The Colombian coffee has been recognized worldwide as having high quality and distinctive taste. The main importers of Colombian coffee are United States, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands and Switzerland.
Historical data indicates that the Jesuits brought small seeds with them at around 1730, but there are different versions of this. Tradition says that the seeds of coffee came from the east of the country, brought by a traveller from the Guyana who passed through Venezuela until reaching Colombia. The oldest written testimony of the presence of coffee in Colombia is attributed to a Jesuit priest, Jose Gumilla. In his book "The Orinoco Illustrated" (1730) he registered the presence of coffee in the mission of Saint Teresa of Tabaje, near where the Meta river empties into the Orinoco. The second written testimony belongs to the archbishop-viceroy Caballero y Gongora (1787) who registered the presence of the crop in the north east of the country near Giron (Santander) and Muzo (Boyaca), in a report that he provided to the Spanish authorities.
The first coffee crops were planted in the eastern part of the country. In 1835 the first commercial production was registered with 2,560 green coffee bags that were exported from the port of Cucuta, near the border with Venezuela. According to testimonies of the time, the priest Francisco Romero is attributed to be very influential in the propagation of the crop in the north east region of the country. After hearing the confession of the parishioners of the town of Salazar de la Palmas, he requested as penitence the cultivation of coffee. These seeds permitted the presence of coffee in the departments of Santander and North Santander, with its consequent propagation, since 1850, to the center and western regions, such as Cundinamarca, Antioquia, and the historic region of Caldas.
Despite these early developments, the consolidation of coffee as a Colombian export did not come about until the second half of the 19th century. The great expansion that the world economy underwent at that time allowed Colombian landowners to find attractive opportunities in international markets. Little by little the United States consolidated into the most important consumer of coffee in the world, while Germany and France became the most important markets in Europe.
The then large Colombian landowners had already tried to exploit the new opportunities that the expansion of the international markets offered. Between 1850 and 1857 the country experienced a significant increase in tobacco and quinine exports, and thereafter leather and live cattle. These early efforts in the export of agricultural commodities turned out too fragile; they in fact were only reactionary attempts to find the greatest profitability from the high international prices of the time, rather than attempts to create a solid and diversified export platform. The production of these sectors when into period of decline when the respective bonanza of their international prices terminated, hence a true industrial consolidation was prevented.
With the fall of international prices, that registered the transition from the 19th to the 20th century, the profitability of the large estates plummeted. As if this was not enough the Thousand Days War, which took place during the first years of the new century, also negatively influenced the important landowners, making it impossible for them to maintain their plantations in good conditions; this circumstance summed to the fact that these producers had incurred in large amounts of foreign debt in order to further develop their plantations, which finally ruined them. The coffee estates of Santander and North Santander entered into crisis and the estates of Cundinamarca and Antioquia stalled.
The crisis that affected the large estates brought with it one of the most significant changes of the Colombian coffee industry. Since 1875 the number of small coffee producers had begun to grow in Santander as well as in some regions of Antioquia and in the region referred to as Viejo or Old Caldas. In the first decades of the 20th century a new model to develop coffee exports based on the rural economy had already been consolidated, supported by internal migration and the colonization of new territories in the center and western regions of the country, principally in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Valle, and in the northern part of Tolima. Both the expansion of this new coffee model and the crisis that affected the large estates allowed the western regions of Colombia to take the lead in the development of the coffee industry in the country.
This transformation was very favorable for the owners of the small coffee estates that were entering the coffee market. The cultivation of coffee was a very attractive option for local farmers, as it offered the possibility of making permanent and intensive use of the land. Under this productive model of the traditional agriculture, based on the slash and burn method, the land remained unproductive for long periods of time. In contrast, coffee offered the possibility of having an intense agriculture, without major technical requirements and without sacrificing the cultivation of subsistence crops, thus generating the conditions for the expansion of a new coffee culture, dominated by small farms.
Although this new breed of coffee farmers demonstrated a significant capacity to grow at the margin of current international prices, Colombia did not have a relatively important dynamism in the global market of this product. As can be observed in the following graph, during the period between 1905 and 1935 the coffee industry in Colombia grew dynamically thanks to the vision and long term politics derived from the creation of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federationin 1927.
The union of local farmers and small producers around the Federation has permitted them to confront logistical and commercial difficulties that would not have been possible individually. With time and through the research made at Cenicafe, founded in 1938, and the Federation's agricultural Extension Service, improved cultivation systems. More efficient spatial patterns were developed that permitted the differentiation of the product and supported its quality. Currently the Land of Coffee in Colombia includes all of the mountain ranges and other mountainous regions of the country, and generates income for over 500,000 coffee farming families.
Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis
Colombian Coffee Growers Federation
Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Colombian coffee