(Recasts throughout, adds quote from Colombian president)
Nov 28 (Reuters) - Nestle Nespresso said on Tuesday it plans a substantial increase in the amount of coffee it buys from one of the regions hardest hit by Colombia’s long-running guerrilla war, as it sources more beans from southern Caqueta province.
A peace deal between the Colombian government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in late 2016, following the five-decade war, paved the way for many to return to their homes and farms, including thousands of coffee growers.
Colombia is the world’s biggest producer of mild arabica beans, some of the highest quality coffee. In 2016, Nespresso bought its first coffee from a post-conflict region of Colombia - Caqueta - and launched it this year as a limited edition called “Aurora de la Paz,” which translates as “Dawn of Peace.”
Nespresso’s coffee-sourcing expansion into several regions previously at the center of armed conflict is part of a $50 million investment for “sustainable quality coffee production” in Colombia, the company said in a release.
Early indications suggest Nespresso will buy up to five times more coffee from Caqueta in 2018 than in 2016 as it expands into areas that were inaccessible prior to the peace agreement, the release added.
It did not specify the amount of coffee being purchased from the highlands of jungle-covered Caqueta, which was once dominated by the FARC.
The Colombian government has estimated that the revival of coffee farming in regions previously torn by war could help boost the country’s output by 40 percent by 2020. If that goal were reached, it would boost global supplies of mild arabica beans by about 13 percent.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the investment.
“Nespresso is renewing its commitment to Colombia. This $50 million is additional to the $80 million that it has invested since 2012,” Santos said at an event with the company in Bogota.
“The support of Nespresso is very important in this challenging moment we are living through, their investments will help to revitalize the coffee industry in areas where production was lost to the conflict.”
The company said it bought coffee from roughly 1,000 producers in Caqueta in 2016. (Reporting by Marcy Nicholson in New York and Luis Jaime Acosta in Bogota; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Tom Brown)