Colombian coffee growers end strike after winning subsidy

Striking Colombian coffee growers who have blocked roads for 11 days ended their protest Friday after winning a government subsidy to offset lower prices for their product on international markets.

"We are going back to our land to continue producing the best coffee in the world," said Guillermo Gaviria, a protest leader, after the deal was signed with the government.

The government concession is a subsidy of up to the equivalent of $80 per 125 kilos (275 pounds) of coffee beans, the Agriculture Ministry said. But it will only be in effect for one year.

Treasury Minister Mauricio Cardenas said it would cost the government the equivalent of $443 million.

In Colombia, some 560,000 families make their living growing coffee, and 95 percent of them are small-scale producers.

This industry so key to Colombia's economy is going through hard times. Last year prices fell 35% on the international market and the Colombian peso appreciated 10 percent.