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Colombia Faces Slim Pickings When It Comes To Coffee Pickers

Scared off by security concerns and enticed by urban employment, Colombia’s rural coffee pickers simply aren’t around for this year’s harvest. Local governments are having to get creative in their efforts to bridge the labor gap.

A coffee harvester in Colombia
A coffee harvester in Colombia


The coffee we drink with breakfast or after lunch doesn't come from a jar or a can, just as the milk we consume doesn't originally come from a bottle or a box. Sure, we all know that coffee – in its original seed form – grows on bushes. But what most people don't know is that unlike milk, which can be collected from cows with the help of sophisticated machinery, coffee harvesting is still a manual task. Without workers going into the fields and picking the beans one-by-one, our morning mugs would be empty.

In Colombia, this is proving to a be a serious problem. October and November are peak harvest months, but this year, coffee pickers are scarce. In various coffee-growing regions, desperate producers are on the hunt for people to pick their beans. What's causing the labor shortage? Young people are being pulled away from Colombia's rural coffee-growing zones by employment opportunities in the cities. "Push" factors explaining the exodus include low rural wages and, in certain areas, security concerns.

In Antioquia, one of Colombia's 32 departments, the local government is seeking 40,000 workers. Why? Of the 94 coffee-producing communities in Antioquia, only 23 have enough workers to get the job done. In an attempt to bridge the labor gap, authorities there have launched what they call "Plan Cosecha" (harvest plan), which looks to inform, orient and organize coffee pickers. Ultimately, the idea is for available workers to move in a coordinated way from farm to farm, and thus hopefully meet the demand of all of the department's coffee-growing towns and cities.

The plan also promises to improve security conditions. In 91 of Antioquia's 125 municipalities, special security forces will be deployed to back up the nearly 1,500 soldiers already patrolling the department.

Other coffee-growing areas, such as the department of Risaralda, are following suit. Risaralda's version of Plan Cosecha is called "Engánchese," meaning "get hooked." The department is looking to hire some 10,000 coffee pickers, offering to train unemployed people from other sectors on how to collect coffee beans.

Read more from AméricaEconomía in Spanish

Photo - Triangulo del Cafe

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGOTikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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