International Coffee Organization Meetings End Without Crucial Commitments for Coffee Sector

By Oxfam

LONDON -- The International Coffee Organization (ICO) has missed an opportunity to give small-scale family coffee farmers and farm workers a greater voice in the debate about solving the world coffee crisis, says international development agency Oxfam.

After the ICO’s May meetings finished in London,  ICO members acknowledged this week that it was important for small-scale family coffee farmers, who produce of the majority of the world’s coffee, to make a decent living. However, the ICO failed to come up with specific proposals to solve the ongoing economic crisis facing 25 million of these producers.

“The ICO is talking about addressing issues of environmental and social responsibility – but small farmer representation within the ICO is the only way to effectively address the economic inequities faced by small-scale family coffee farmers and farm workers in the supply chain,” said Dagoberto Suazo, head of the La Central coffee cooperative and Honduran delegate to the ICO.

“Farmers’ voice in these debates is critical in creating true economic sustainability in this sector – ensuring farmers can cover the cost of their coffee production and meet the essential necessities of life such as providing food, education and basic healthcare for their families.”

The ICO first began discussing the future of its operating charter, the International Coffee Agreement (ICA), in 2005. This meeting was a chance to make real progress in agreeing on a new charter that would make solving the world coffee crisis a real priority. However, talks continue to move at a snail’s pace.

“We are asking that small-scale family coffee farmers and farm workers have equal representation in the ICO’s advisory forums,” said Seth Petchers, coffee lead for Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign. “Corporate interests are represented and have dedicated forums for discussion within the ICO – so it’s only reasonable that the people who grow most of the world’s coffee also have a say in the process.”

The lack of progress at these ICO proceedings was further reflected by the organization’s refusal to allow Oxfam to attend the meeting via temporary observer status. While Oxfam was allowed to make a presentation to the council, there was no opportunity for the organization to engage in critical dialogue.

Oxfam, an international development organization, works all over the world with civil society organizations representing coffee farming communities and their concerns. Oxfam is in a unique position to propose tangible, constructive solutions based on its relationships with these communities and organizations representing small coffee farmers.

At this week’s meetings, several ICO delegations submitted statements that emphasized the need to work toward a more sustainable coffee sector, information sharing within the supply chain, and access to credit for farmers– all issues that impact the ability for small coffee farmers to make a decent living and support the urgency for small-scale coffee farmer and farm worker voice within the ICO. However, no commitments were made on these topics.

For more information, contact Helen DaSilva at +617-331-2984 or [email protected]. To learn about Oxfam’s recommendations for the renewal of the ICA, read the Grounds for Change report at www.oxfamamerica.org/ico.

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