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Tom Joyce

BY TOM JOYCE

@tomfruitnet

Embracing organic in Colombia

With the support of Dutch organic specialist Eosta, Colombian growers see a bright future for the production and export of organic limes

Embracing organic in Colombia

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Eosta's first shipment of limes from Colombian exporter Persian arrived last week with a surprise attached: almost 100 postcards from farmworkers in the valley of the Poblanco river bearing personal messages of gratitude.

According to the Dutch organic fruit specialist, for these Colombian growers this first shipment of 800 boxes to the Netherlands signals a fresh new start  for the Colombian countryside after decades of poverty and guerrilla warfare.

The story can be traced back to early 2016, when Eosta's CEO Volkert Engelsman toured the South American country along with the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan.

Santos was apparently set to finalise a historic peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla movement, an effort that would later win him the Nobel Prize.

"It was high time to revitalise the countryside, after it had been destroyed for years by the cocaine trade," Eosta stated. "To this end, Santos turned his attention to organic agriculture for export as a dream alternative." Seeing the possibilities, Engelsman vowed to assist the Colombian growers in switching to organic farming.

With support from Eosta, Juan Pablo Duque, CEO of Persian, has planted 300ha of trees in recent years and achieved organic certification. "We focus on two main things," said Duque. "The quality of our fruit and the impact on the lives of the people that make this possible."

This year, according to the company, the trees really started bearing fruit. Over the next few years, Eosta revealed, the production area will be extended to around 2,000ha.

“Thank you for buying our very first export fruit!” read one postcard from field worker Valentino Bedoya. “These limes have been grown with love and passion, by people who love the countryside. We're going to make our region a better place to live. Thanks for your trust and keep buying them from us!”

Eosta’s lime specialist Nicolas Coste expressed his delight at the first harvest. “The limes are really top-quality and are selling like hot cakes," he said. "Plus, there's a great story behind it. The plantations provide equal incomes and healthy jobs, even childcare. They protect all sorts of native species of plants and animals. For Colombia, this represents a great opportunity to restore agricultural landscapes, to bring back agriculture and to change Colombia's international image positively."

Engelsman responded with a warm video message congratulating Duque and his colleagues on their success. "In the face of Covid-19, it is even clearer that we need to make changes as regards biodiversity and agriculture," he said. "You are the pioneers of a future in which agriculture is not only about kilograms per hectare, but also about soil health, biodiversity, positive climate impact and health for farmers and citizens. We look forward to working with you for many, many years!"

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