History of the establishment of Cenicaña

Cenicaña, a contribution of sugar mills and sugarcane growers to the development of Colombia.

First investigations in cane

Research activities in the Valle del Cauca began institutionally in 1930 with the initiation of the sugarcane program at the Experimental Station of the Colombian Agricultural Institute, ICA, in Palmira.

In the decade of the forties the sugar mills began research-experimentation activities; after 1955, they established cooperative agreements with the Sugarcane Program at ICA.

Interest in private investigation

In 1964, the Castilla and Riopaila mills proposed in the Board of Directors of the Association of Sugar Cane Growers of Colombia, Asocaña, that the sugar industry had its own institute on sugarcane research. The proposal was supported by 7 of the 20 mills that worked at that time. Although the statement was open so that other mills could adhere, it did not bear fruit.

In 1970, given the general interest of the sugar industry in technological innovation, ASOCAÑA contracted a study with the British firm Brooker Agricultural and Technical Services to explore the possibility of obtaining their services to expand private-sector research on sugarcane in the Cauca Valley. The firm proposed a research plan that emphasized crossing and selecting varieties, plant nutrition and physiology, soil physics and the application of agricultural engineering to prepare the lands, water management, machinery and pests. This proposal did not come to fruition.

Crisis in the sector

In 1973, ICA decided to finish the sugarcane program at the Palmira Experimental Station. Although cooperative programs with sugar mills had intensified, there was little effective linkage between the program and the industry and little recognition of the work of the ICA. In addition, throughout its existence, the program had been affected by a chronic lack of resources, both technical and budgetary, which severely limited its capacity for action.

In the mid-30s, Valle del Cauca went through a long and painful summer that significantly reduced cane production and it was necessary to import sugar. Adverse weather factors and other negative factors led the industry to a serious crisis. The world price of raw sugar suffered a considerable decline, from almost 1974 cents in 8 to 1977 cents in XNUMX.

The effort for the progress of the sector

Given the situation of the industry, and at the initiative of the Executive President of Asocaña, Rodrigo Escobar Navia, the association contracted with the Foundation for Higher Education and Development, FEDESARROLLO, a study on the sugar and paneling industry in Colombia. As a result of the study, FEDESARROLLO proposed the creation of: a sugar fund and panelero; a national research, training and technical advice center; and a national panelero center.

Asocaña put all its effort into putting into practice the recommendations set forth by FEDESARROLLO and concretizing the proposal to create a Sugarcane Research Center in Colombia.

Sugar Policy

In 1977, ASOCAÑA proposed to the President of the Republic of Colombia, Alfonso López Michelsen, the need for a comprehensive and coherent sugar policy that would be stable in the long term, as well as the creation of a National Sugar Commission that would analyze and make recommendations to the national government regarding that policy. The Commission was created on 23 May of that year, and soon afterwards, the Commission created the National Sugar and Panela Fund (FONAZUCAR). The Fund was given specific functions with respect to the development of the sugar and panela industry, including the financing of diverse forms of research. It was agreed to finance the Fund with 4% of the value of the sugar sales on the national market and destine 10% of the total (that is, 0.4% of the sugar sales on the domestic market) to finance the Sugarcane Research Center.

Approved statutes and development of the assembly

On August 2, 1977, the National Sugar Commission approved the draft statutes prepared by Asocaña. The Constitution Assembly of the Sugarcane Research Center of Colombia, Cenicaña, took place in Cali on September 6, 1977. At the request of the participants, the Assembly was chaired by Eduardo Holguín Hurtado, President of the Board of Directors of Asocaña. He acted as Secretary ad-doc Fernando Sudupe Jiménez, then General Secretary of Asocaña. Rodrigo Escobar Navia, then President of Asocaña and Provisional Director General of the Center, representatives of thirteen sugar mills (Balsilla, Carmelita, Castilla, Cauca, El Naranjo, Oriente, Pichichí, Manuelita, Mayagüez, Providencia, Riopaila, Sancarlos and Tumaco) participated , eight sugarcane cultivation farms and six special guests directly linked to the sugar industry, or a total of twenty-eight people.

Constitution of Cenicaña and headquarters

The Center was established as a private, non-profit scientific and technological corporation, of indefinite duration, based in Palmira. They chose Palmira because it is the “Agricultural Capital” of Colombia and the second city of Valle del Cauca in population, and because it is strategically located in relation to the location of the sugar mills. The fact that the physical headquarters were later established in the municipality of Florida did not affect the legal headquarters since, according to the statutes, the corporation could have offices in other parts of Valle del Cauca or the country. Several years later, however, through a reform of the statutes, the legal seat was transferred to the municipality of Cali, to facilitate the processing of administrative matters.

On February 28, 1978, in the boardroom of the Asocaña office in Bogotá, Dr. Armando Samper Gnecco (†) took office as Chairman of the Board and General Director of the Center.

In 1979, the closed quarantine station was opened for varieties imported from sugarcane in Tibaitatá, Cundinamarca.

On July 17, 1982, the Experimental Station was inaugurated in San Antonio de los Caballeros, Florida-Valle del Cauca.

In 1979, during the opening ceremony of the closed quarantine station for imported sugar cane varieties in Tibaitatá, Cundinamarca, Armando Samper Gnecco in the company of Pedro León Velásquez, then general manager of the ICA.

Visit of the Board of Directors of Cenicaña to the adaptation works plan at the Experimental Station, in February 1981.

On July 17, 1982, the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Fernando Londoño Capurro, inaugurates the Cenicaña Experimental Station in San Antonio de los Caballeros, Municipality of Florida.

Celebration of 10 years of Cenicaña in which "homage" was paid to the varieties CP57-603 and POJ 28-78. Experimental Center, September 1988.

During the celebration of the XXV anniversary of Cenicaña, two varieties of great importance were sown in the evolution of the Colombian sugar industry: OTAHITI and CC 85-92.

Clímaco Cassalett Dávila, director of the Variety Research Program between 1982 and 1998, sows the OTAHITI variety in the celebration of the XXV anniversary of Cenicaña.

Three stages in the direction of Cenicaña. Armando Samper Gnecco (center), 1978-1989; James H. Cock (left), 1990-2000; Alvaro Amaya Estévez (right), CEO of Cenicaña since August 2000.

Nohra Pérez Castillo (right), administrative director between 1979 and 2012, and Camilo H. Isaacs Echeverry (left), superintendent of the 1980-1990 Experimental Station and head of the Technical Cooperation and Technology Transfer Service since 1990, two people always close to Dr. Armando Samper.


Article sections Establishment of Cenicaña 1977-1978: a retrospective look at its background, its foundation and the selection of priority programs, document written by Armando Samper Gnecco in May 1998 and available in the Cenicaña library as working document no. 5334.

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