Friday, June 9, 2023

Colombian palm growers on alert for extortion and declining security

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Palm oil producers in Colombia on Tuesday denounced an increase in extortion by illegal armed groups and a drop in security, reflected in the kidnapping of one of their associates, at a time when the sector is at record levels. Target is production.

Colombia is the fourth world producer of palm oil – after Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand – and the first in Latin America, with approximately 596,000 cultivated hectares.

Nicolás Pérez, president of the National Federation of Growers of Oil Palm, Fedepalma, said the sector is forecast to produce a record 1.8 million tonnes of palm oil this year, up 2.3% compared to a 1.26% increase in 2022.

The improved harvest can be explained by a combination of favorable climate, fertilization of palms and greater investment in crops.

However, the manager highlighted the increase in insecurity as the only concern of the union.

“Unfortunately, security has declined in all palm-growing areas,” Perez said in a telephone interview. “They are extorting small palm growers, transporters, company employees, this is really a situation that has not been seen for many years.”

There are approximately 5,200 small-scale palm growers in Colombia.

“The issue of extortion has been more delicate, although it is not the only explanation, a phenomenon of the problem of the coca paste market which is very quiet and illegal armed groups, because they do not have income from illegal business, legal markets,” Perez said. Have turned to looking for financing.

According to the United Nations office, the area under cultivation with coca leaf in Colombia will increase by 43% to 204,000 hectares at the end of 2021, while potential cocaine production will increase by 14% to 1,400 metric tons, the highest in more than two decades. Record figures. Against Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In the South American country, left-wing guerrilla groups and criminal gangs made up of former right-wing paramilitaries are fighting for territorial control of drug trafficking.

Perez recalled that a palm grower has been kidnapped for about 30 days.

“They buy fruit from you to the extent that it can be transported to extractors, that crude oil can be transported to refineries, but if we are affected by blockades or insecurity issues, any link in the chain,” said Perez. , on the eve of the region’s annual congress.

“The main losers will be the producers who will have no way to sell their product and clear it along our processing and marketing chain,” he concluded.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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