Boston, MA—Oxfam America released a new report this week, The Coffee Crisis Continues, as specialty coffee roasters, retailers and coffee farmers converge in Seattle for this weekend's Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) annual conference. After hitting a 30-year low in 2001, the price of coffee has begun to recover. But the extra cents in no way signal an end to the coffee crisis. Despite higher prices, 25 million small-scale coffee farmers worldwide still cannot earn a decent income.
"A higher market price for coffee doesn't always have a direct impact on the lives of small-scale coffee farming families," said Carlos Reynoso, head of the Guatemalan coffee cooperative Manos Campesinas. "Even when farmers are selling to specialty markets, the price they receive for a pound of coffee is just one element of achieving a sustainable livelihood."
The Coffee Crisis Continues outlines dynamics in the coffee supply chain that ultimately lead to instability for one of the world's most heavily traded commodities. Coffee is produced in over 60 countries, most of which are developing nations greatly dependent on coffee for the majority of their export earnings. The report identifies the six most pressing needs of small-scale coffee farmers as:
- price stability;
- access to finance;
- market access;
- technical assistance in quality improvement and diversification;
- organizational strengthening;
- participation in international debate.
"The obstacles faced by small-scale coffee farmers are surmountable if the industry helps to build their capacity as small businesses," said Seth Petchers, Coffee Program Manager at Oxfam America. "The specialty coffee industry in particular has a vested interest in alleviating the coffee crisis—the stability of its supply of high-quality product is directly linked to the long-term success of the small-scale family coffee farmer."
Some leading specialty coffee companies such as Equal Exchange, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Starbucks have made commitments to crucial components of sustainable sourcing, including forging long-term partnerships with coffee cooperatives as well as creating provisions for affordable credit. "The coffee industry must follow their lead if they expect to maintain and protect the quality and brand of their products," said Petchers.