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Clashes Break Out As Colombian Coffee Growers Launch Strike

posted 25 Feb 2013, 14:57 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 25 Feb 2013, 14:57 ]

Clashes with police break out in Colombia as thousands of striking coffee growers protest falling coffee prices.

CALARCA, COLOMBIA (FEBRUARY 25, 2013) (RCN TV) -  Clashes between police and striking Colombian coffee growers broke out in various regions of the South American country on Monday (February 25).

Thousands of coffee growers walked off the job to demand an increase in government subsidies for an agricultural sector that has been hard hit by the rising peso, low prices and smaller harvests.

One coffee grower, Ruben Dario Diaz, said that Juan Manuel Santos' administrationwasn't doing its share to prevent the losses.

"The principal reason why we are gathered here, these thousands of coffee workers, is because the Santos government has abandoned us. Today the Colombia coffee growers are selling coffee at a loss in a business that cannot function like this," said Diaz.

Roadblocks, demonstrations and police-protester confrontations marked the first day of the strike.

However, the government slammed the strike and said that it is has always been open to dialogue.

"The government has always had the doors open for dialogue and the willingness to help the coffee sector. It has done so since August 7, 2010 in very abundant quantities. We are going to continue doing it, not only with coffee but also with other agricultural sectors but it is not going to be drawn into stone-throwing strikes or road closures," said Colombian Agricultural Minister, Juan Camilo Restrepo.

Colombia is home to 930,000 coffee plant hectares and approximately 560,000 families depend on its cultivation for their livelihood, according to government figures.

Unfavourable weather conditions resulted in a devastating 2012 harvest and the worst the country has seen for the past three decades.