London – The International Coffee Organization (ICO) must seize a golden opportunity to make the interests of 25 million small-scale family coffee farmers -- producers of the majority of the world's coffee -- an integral part of its work when it meets in London starting today.
The ICO will be renewing its operating charter, the International Coffee Agreement (ICA). Oxfam and other groups representing small-scale family coffee farmers say that the renewed charter will be vital in helping to level the playing field for millions of poor farming families around the world whose livelihoods are being destroyed because they can’t compete in the global market due to unequal terms.
The ICO is the only dedicated forum for discussing coffee-related matters at the international level, bringing together coffee-producing and consuming countries around one table. It could be the focal point for international cooperation to bring about a truly sustainable coffee economy.
“The current discussions on the future of the ICA present an historic opportunity to address the ongoing crisis facing small-scale family coffee farmers and farmworkers,” said Seth Petchers, the coffee lead for Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign.
World coffee prices plummeted in 1999, devastating coffee farming communities around the world. Despite recent improvements, the price continues to fluctuate and the crisis for coffee farmers persists. To make matters worse, they don’t have enough access to credit and information to plan and market their crops.
“Long-term solutions must go beyond the topic of price and instead address issues including giving farmers the space to participate in international debates – space comparable to that available to the big coffee companies – as well as access to market information and credit,” Petchers said.
“Since the World Coffee Conference in Salvador, Brazil in 2005, groups representing and supporting small-scale coffee farmers all over the world have been calling on the ICO for greater representation,” said Gerardo De Leon of FEDECOCAGUA, a federation of Guatemalan coffee cooperatives. “In Brazil, we presented the ICO with the Carta de Salvador - a declaration outlining the need for greater farmer representation in international debate – and we have elaborated on the Carta in Grounds for Change. The ICO has got the message, now it is time to act.”
A recent paper released by Oxfam International and twelve allies (see below for full list) called Grounds for Change: Creating a Voice for Small Coffee Farmers and Farmworkers with the Next International Coffee Agreement, recommends the ICO:
- create forums within the organization dedicated to making coffee production more sustainable;
- ensure fair representation of small-scale farmers and farmworkers alongside of coffee companies;
- create systems so that all parties, including farmers, have access to relevant coffee sector information;
- and facilitate coordinated, well-resourced responses to the crucial issues facing small-scale farmers including: technical assistance, risk management and access to credit.
To read Grounds for Change, please visit: www.maketradefair.org/ico. For additional information, please contact Helen DaSilva at + (617) 331-2984 (mobile) or [email protected]
Grounds for Change Contributors:
Karnataka Growers Federation, India Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, Ethiopia Junta Nacional del Café, Peru FEDECOCAGUA, Guatemala Frente Solidario, Central America Global Alliance on Commodities and Coffee (GLACC) Koffie Coalitie, Netherlands Central de Cooperativas Cafetaleras de Honduras, CCCH, Honduras La Central, Honduras CONTAG, Brazil Uganda Coffee Trade Federation (UCTF), Uganda Foro Del Café, El Salvador National Union of Coffee Agri-Businesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE), Uganda Oxfam International