Colom­bian cof­fee from for­mer rebel ter­ri­tory stands out at auc­tion

Business World - - AGRIBUSINESS -

THE STEEP mud track to Astrid Me­d­ina’s farm in the An­des traces the tragedies of Colom­bian life — and its po­ten­tial.

Four miles out­side the town of Planadas, a statue of the Vir­gin Mary marks the spot where her mother and brother were swept by a land­slide into the river be­low. Fur­ther on, the road winds past a cross where her fa­ther, a com­mu­nity leader, was or­dered from a bus and shot by Marx­ist guer­ril­las.

Be­yond that, 1,800 me­ters (5,900 feet) above sea level, lies Me­d­ina’s Bue­nav­ista farm, and the best cof­fee beans in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to a panel of in­ter­na­tional judges.

“Our se­cret is the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment. And there’s also an el­e­ment of luck, plus the hard work,” Ms. Me­d­ina said of the award in an April 19 in­ter­view at her home. “We may have the best cof­fee but we’re still lack­ing a lot.”

Cof­fee pro­duced by Me­d­ina and run­ners- up in Colom­bia’s 2015 Cup of Ex­cel­lence com­pe­ti­tion held last month was auc­tioned Thurs­day, as the coun­try seeks to tap strong de­mand for so- called spe­cialty cof­fees.

Me­d­ina’s cof­fee sold for a to­tal of $36,062, or $14.50 per pound (0.45 kilo­gram), more than ten times the price com­manded by Ara­bica on the ICE Fu­tures US ex­change in New York. The top bid­der was Colom­bian com­pany Ban­ex­port, Lind­say Amor from the Al­liance for Cof­fee Ex­cel­lence said by phone from Port­land, Ore­gon.

Colom­bia’s Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Cof­fee Grow­ers says it wants to in­crease sales of the added- value cof­fees to 70% of to­tal ex­ports by 2020, from 35% cur­rently.

Or­ganic, Fair­trade and Rain­for­est Al­liance cof­fees all com­mand higher prices than regular Colom­bian cof­fee, which it­self trades at a pre­mium over other grades on world mar­kets.

Bue­nav­ista’s win­ning beans have medium- high acid­ity, a creamy body with sweet and fruity notes, ac­cord­ing to judges who gave it 90 points out of a max­i­mum 100 on March 13.

Com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Star­bucks Corp. and Car­avela Cof­fee LLC have vis­ited the area, which this year pro­duced six of the top 20 en­tries.

“Many farm­ers here are us­ing the best agri­cul­tural prac­tices,” Manuel Salas, an agron­o­mist and lo­cal fed­er­a­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said this month. “Geog­ra­phy and veg­e­ta­tion also play a big part. There’s an abun­dance of clean wa­ter and rich soil, with lots of cit­rus and cedar trees.” —

CLOSE up of cof­fee beans seen dur­ing a Colom­bian cof­fee Expo.

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