SOURCE: Colombian Coffee Growers Federation

Colombian Coffee Growers Federation

September 08, 2014 18:55 ET

Record Turnout in This Year's Coffee Grower Elections in Colombia

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA--(Marketwired - Sep 8, 2014) - According to preliminary figures received from 96% of the polling stations thus far, a total of 245,180 farmers in 568 municipalities in 17 departments of Colombia participated in Colombia's coffee grower elections which took place on September 6 and 7.

As such, voter turnout in these coffee elections rose to a record 65.5%, surpassing parliamentary elections in Canada, Japan or Switzerland, or participation in the recent presidential elections in Chile, Guatemala or Mexico.

It is important to note that this year the coffee elections occurred in person, which meant that coffee growers had to mobilize to deposit their votes in the ballot box. This exemplifies the interest of the farmers to participate in the decisions of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC).

In previous coffee elections, a total of 55,070 coffee producers voted electronically but this time coffee growers expressed their commitment by walking several miles or taking buses to vote at the polling stations.

This high record of coffee growers who participated in the elections reflects an increase of 30,900 new voters, 14.4% more than the 214,280 coffee growers who voted in 2010.

Cases that demonstrate the commitment of the coffee growers within their association

Throughout the country there have been many cases of electoral commitment that have been highlighted. One of these is the case of Jorge Luis Pacheco, a 28 year old from Gramalote, North of Santander, who for the second time exercised his right to vote in the coffee grower elections.

Jorge Luis had to walk a total of four hours (roundtrip) to get to the point where he could choose the members of the Municipal Committee of Coffee Growers of Gramalote as well as his favorite list for the Departmental Committee of Coffee Growers of North Santander province. He voted in the Lomita, the only street that exists in what was before Gramalote (a community that had to be relocated a few years ago after it was demolished by a mudslide), and a place where they installed a polling station in this zone.

Another one of the hundreds of cases that demonstrate the commitment, the diversity and the interest of coffee growers in choosing their representatives is the polling station that was installed in the indigenous community of Yewrwa, in the jurisdiction of Pueblo Bello, in the Sierra Nevada region of Santa Marta. In order to install this polling station and the necessary electoral material, they had to bring it in on a mule to the selected site in order to facilitate the participation of the indigenous coffee producers in this region.

Thus, throughout most of the country, thousands of coffee growers walked, arrived on goats, jeeps, crossed rivers and landslides to choose the 4,620 leaders who will make up the 370 Municipal Committees and the 15 Departmental Committees of the Coffee Growers of Colombia.

These leaders will be the ones who make up the National Coffee Growers Congress, the FNC's maximum deliberative authority that will legitimately represent the coffee growers during the next four years.

"We are very satisfied with the results of these two election days," said Juan Carlos Galindo Vacha, Deputy Manager of the Coffee Elections.

"The coffee growers demonstrated their enthusiasm, commitment and electoral responsibility. Everyone respected the rules of the process and, fortunately, in a rural country as diverse and complex as Colombia, there were no unfavorable incidents," added Galindo.

In this year's elections, 374,540 federated coffee growers were eligible to vote, meaning those with a Smart Coffee ID card and at least half a hectare of land with 1,500 trees appeared on the list of those eligible to vote, which was updated between April and June of this year in accordance with rules of the process.

At the same time, 7,164 independent judges also participated, which contributed to the guarantee of transparency. For the first time in the history of the coffee elections, an Electoral Observation Mission took part in the events with 400 observers at polling stations and will have 30 more during the days of scrutiny.

The official count of these elections will take place in the Scrutiny Commissions organized by independent third parties, which will be held in each department, in a public session at the headquarters of each Departmental Committee, respectively, at the time and date defined by each department.

These elections provide an important opportunity for the coffee growers to choose their representatives in an open, participatory and democratic fashion. This year, they enrolled a total of 15,854 candidates, close to 10% compared to the elections four years ago by 192 lists of Departmental Committees and 1,290 lists of Municipal Committees.

The coffee elections were held in 568 municipalities (more than 51% of the country) and 17 departments; coverage that surpassed public elections in entire countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador or Bolivia.

About the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC)
The FNC is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1927 that represents over 500,000 coffee growing families. Considered one of the largest rural organizations in the world, its mission is to improve the well-being and the quality of life of Colombian coffee producers. Under its Sustainability that Matters® programs, the FNC has developed an integral sustainability policy focused on coffee growers that includes productive, social and environmental initiatives. It also develops scientific research, technology transfer and social and industrial processes, supporting Colombian coffee production and commercialization. For more information, please visit:

www.federaciondecafeteros.org - www.cafedecolombia.com

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