Colombian potato farmers went on strike Tuesday calling on the government to protect the industry from high production costs and new imports.
Protests have manifested in departments throughout Colombia including the central Boyaca and Cundinamarca departments, northwestern Antioquia, southern Nariño and the southwestern Cauca department. Farmers are seeking government protection from rising costs of potato production and an increase in cheaper imported potato products.
Cesar Pachon, a representative for the Potato Farmers Dignity Movement told newspaper El Colombiano that the strikers, “Are searching for a price control [or subsidy] because the potato is selling for less than its [production] cost, soft loans, debt refinancing and support for inputs because they are expensive.”
The Potato Dignity Movement reported that production costs have risen by 20% and that prices have fallen from $48 (COP 70,000) for a 275 pound sack of potatoes to $22 (COP 40,000).
Potato growers are also worried about the effects of Colombia’s recent free trade agreements and the new potato products entering the market.
“We need a clear state policy in the long term to enable us to compete. We are exposed to international markets without the tools,” said Pachon.
Juan Fernando Romero, a press representative with the Boyaca Governors Office confirmed with Colombia Reports that there are protests throughout the department and that approximately 2,000 people are protesting on the department’s Bridge of Boyaca. Romero said there were no reports of violence outside of an isolated incident.
Caracol Radio reported that 5,000 protesters are blocking the highway from the eastern city of Tunja to the capital Bogota.
The governor of Boyaca will reportedly meet with officials from Cundinamarca and Nariño to search for an end to the protests.