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Panama Canal Authority Opens Coffee Processing Plant

The Panama Canal Authority helped open the first coffee processing plant in Las Gaitas, Capira, Panama as part of its Environmental Economic Incentives Program (PIEA), a land-titling programme supporting communities in the Canal watershed. Coffee farming and planting has helped many fight poverty in Panama, and the plant, which opened last week, is the Canal’s latest move in improving livelihoods along the waterway and within its watershed.

“The journey to this point has been long and full of challenges,” says canal administrator Jorge L Quijano. “But it remains a journey that has also helped us learn and deliver support to hundreds in our watershed.”

Quijano noted that farmers producing coffee on land granted to them by the PIEA programme had to grind and roast their beans more than three hours away from their farms. The new plant, only about an hour from the Canal watershed, saves these farmers crucial time and money.

The PIEA, established in 2009, offers land titles and training programme in the Canal watershed to local farmers, allowing farmers to care for the wooded areas, protect and enrich the soil and reduce erosion in the watershed. Reforestation and sustainable farming efforts lead to greater yields for farmers while ensuring more arable land for future use. In turn, farmers are helping to strengthen the watershed, thereby preventing runoff and better conserving water resources and the environment. The PIEA, within its agroforestry programme, helps offer formal land titles for local farmers, so they take greater ownership of the land they farm. Organisers provide education about sustainable farming practices – such as planting trees to provide shade for their coffee plants rather than clearing land through less environmentally-conscious methods like slash-and-burn.

The Canal works with coffee producers to increase their cultivation and production through classes, seminars and site-visits, and has allowed for the planting of more than one million saplings of improved coffee in about 2,220 hectares of an estimated 95 communities.

In response to this programme, the Association of Coffee Producers of the Ciri and Trinidad Rivers Sub-basin of the Panama Canal (ACACPA) was created in 2013 to facilitate the commercialisation of coffee. Five years after its creation, the new coffee plant offers ACACPA producers equipment for processing their coffee – including a toaster, grinder and sealer to package products.

Through the PIEA programme and the new coffee processing plant, the Canal is providing economic incentives and sustainable production models that not only help farmers create greater economic opportunity, but also ensure the broader sustainability of the watershed, thereby keeping the Canal, and global maritime trade, running smoothly.

The Panama Canal Expansion is the largest enhancement project since the Canal’s opening in 1914. Considered and analysed for a decade with more than 100 studies, the Expanded Canal provides the world’s shippers, retailers, manufacturers and consumers with greater shipping options, better maritime service, enhanced logistics and supply-chain reliability. The Canal has invested more than USD $1.8 billion in modernising its waterways to ensure it is constantly optimising operations. The Expansion included the construction of a new set of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the waterway, creating a third lane of traffic and doubling the cargo capacity of the waterway. While the expanded locks are 70 feet wider and 18 feet deeper than those in the original Canal, they use less water due to water-savings basins that recycle 60% of the water used per transit.

The Panama Canal is run by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), based in Panama City, Panama, an autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating and maintaining the Panama Canal. For more information, visit the ACP’s website: http://www.pancanal.com.

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