Panela producers from Villeta Cundinamarca
Photo: Jorge Londoño – José Vargas
Panela is one of the most representative products in the country, reaching an average annual production of 1.2 million tons, of which 1 million is consumed by Colombians. According to information from Ministry of Agriculturea, the panela sector is the second agroindustry in social importance (after coffee), since more than 350,000 families participate in it, who represent 12% of the economically active rural population.
But it is also a sector that faces various challenges in terms of infrastructure, a downward trend in producer prices, high input costs, and competitiveness. the association Panela Dignity He assures that a new barrier has been added to this list in recent months, one that is promoted by multinationals and that would have the potential to lead them into a deep crisis.
Also read: What the “panela patent” says and does not say
These are products that are promoted as skillet pulverized, as is the case with skillet, bread list Y Frutiño Panela and Lemon. In the case of the first, it is offered as “the new Colombian drink with panela”. Its manufacturers say that it is made with panela of the highest quality, which has been “carefully granulated and added to a delicious preparation that also has the ideal touch of lemon flavor.” All this accompanied by the endorsement seal of Fedepanela, which is the federation that brings together national panela producers.
If it looks so good and even has the support of those who represent paneleros in Colombia, what’s wrong?
According to the vice president of Dignidad Panelera, nixon blackberryThe problem is that these industries are usurping the panela market in the country, offering products that contain panela, but are not panela.
If you look at the nutritional information of the Panelada, you will find that it is a product with 65% panela, and 35% acidulant (which is a citric acid), artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame, acesulfame and sucralose), in addition to dyes .
It may interest you: List the campaign to consume more panela, in order to support producers
Mora considers that it is not fair that multinationals like Which appropriate the market niche for which they have worked for generations, offering as panela a product that is not panela.
He adds that the popularity of these instant drinks has had a negative impact on the union’s sales. “We were selling a kilo of panela for about $3,000 between April and May, now we are selling it for about $2,500, and we are going down.” He points out, detailing that before for a hectare of panela they offered a producer $10 million, and now they are doing it at $8 million.
But beyond the historical challenges they have experienced as panel makers, Mora believes that the market share of this type of product has the potential to be even more affected by sweeteners.
Of these, he explains, there are several types. Some have the power to sweeten 200 times more than sugar, others more than 600 times and others more than 20,000. In short, these instant beverages have the ability to do more with less, leading to their popularity lowering the demand for panela production, which in the long term forces producers to lower prices, or to end their harvests. .
But in a country with a free market, Quala and other companies that want to market this type of product are within their rights to do so, since they are only playing with the rules of supply and demand. Associations such as Dignidad Panelera know this, and are aware that they cannot demand such a thing as the elimination of these products.
What they ask for is more reasonable, and it is that the Government regulate the matter and oblige these companies to promote their products for what they are: drinks that contain panela, or that taste like panela; but not like panela drinks.
“We ask that the consumer be properly informed, and that panela not be sold as something that it is not. There is a labeling law that has not been regulated, as it has been in Mexico. That this law be regulated, but that consumers are not deceived. If someone wants to consume drinks like Panelada, they are free to do so, but our duty is to work so that Colombians consume informed”, Mora details.
Is a strike coming?
The situation is such that several sugarcane guilds have summoned (tomorrow Tuesday at 9 am) the Minister of Agriculture, rodolfo zeato listen to them and design strategies to mitigate this impact. If an agreement is not reached, they assure that they will initiate a national mobilization, as a protest. a stop.
About this possibility, Fedepanela spoke a few hours ago, saying that it has no participation in the aforementioned strike. “Our objective as a union entity is to ensure and contribute to the development of the panelero subsector in the country by supporting panelero producers in the modernization and development processes”, and that “it has been working constantly to defend the collective interests of the subsector, among them the fair prices for the producer and competitive for the market, strengthening the diversification in production, opening the sector in the food industry, expanding exports and the incorporation of panela in the institutional market through associations of producers”.
Regarding this, Mora assures that the sector of which he is a part does not feel represented by Fedepanela.
This is the panorama (seen from the perspective of the farmers) that paneleros are going through in the country, and for which they say they would be unemployed. Companies like Quala are doing nothing more than participating in a market, so the actions that are needed, according to Mora, must come from the Government, so that it levels the playing field through regulations that allow adequate information to the consumer.
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