International Coffee Organization poised to alleviate the coffee crisis with renewal of its operating charter

Published: 6 April 2006

Boston, MA – Today, Oxfam International and twelve allies from across the world called on the International Coffee Organization (ICO) to use its unique position in the coffee sector to help alleviate the coffee crisis, a humanitarian emergency faced by millions of small-scale family coffee farmers globally. Small-scale family coffee farmers are producers of 75% of the world’s coffee.

The thirteen organizations have outlined their recommendations to the ICO in the report, “Grounds for Change: Creating a Voice for Small Coffee Farmers and Farmworkers with the Next International Coffee Agreement.

“As one the most influential voices in the coffee market, the ICO has the opportunity to address the needs of small-scale family coffee farmers – these farmers are the backbone of the entire industry,” said Seth Petchers, Oxfam International’s Coffee Campaign Lead. “In particular, the ICO is able to influence substantive solutions to the coffee crisis that are comprehensive and sustainable.”

The ICO represents the only dedicated forum for discussing coffee-related matters at the international level and is in the position to provide a focal point for international cooperation on the development of a sustainable coffee economy. The fact that the ICO brings together coffee producing and consuming governments for the development of shared global strategies represents a major opportunity to alleviate the poverty faced by coffee growing communities.

“At the 2nd World Coffee Conference in September 2005, a group of farmer organizations and their allies, including Oxfam, presented the ICO and its delegates with the Carta de Salvador – the Salvador Declaration, which stressed the ongoing effects of the coffee crisis facing small-scale family farmers and farmworkers,” said Lorenzo Castillo, head of Junta Nacional del Café in Peru, one of the contributors to Grounds for Change. “The ICO is hearing the message loud and clear- from farmers, cooperatives and our supporters – it must take advantage of this opportunity to alleviate the poverty faced by millions of coffee farmers across the world.”

The recommendations put forth in "Grounds for Change" call on the ICO to:

  1. create forums at the ICO dedicated to making coffee production more sustainable;

  2. ensure fair representation of small-scale farmers and farmworkers alongside of coffee companies;

  3. create systems so that all parties, including farmers, have access to relevant coffee sector information;

  4. and facilitate coordinated, well-resourced responses to the crucial issues facing small-scale farmers including: technical assistance, risk management and access to credit.

The recommendations in “Grounds for Change” come at a critical moment. The ICO’s operating charter, the International Coffee Agreement (ICA), is due to expire on September 30, 2007. 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 by contributing to sustainable coffee supply chains. The next meeting of the ICO will take place in London, May 22-25, 2006.

The coffee crisis devastated farming communities throughout the world when the market price for coffee plummeted in 1999. The crisis persists today in spite of the rise in the price of coffee over the last year – a price that continues to fluctuate.

Over 25 million small-scale family coffee farmers are dependent on the crop for survival. Yet market fluctuation along with inadequate access to financial resources and market information put sustainable livelihoods out of reach for millions of rural families.

Long term solutions must go beyond the topic of price and address issues including increased space for farmer voices in international debates – space comparable to that of coffee companies – as well as access to market information and credit for farmers.

Read the full report: “Grounds for Change: Creating a Voice for Small Coffee Farmers and Farmworkers with the Next International Coffee Agreement.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Helen DaSilva at +1-617-728-2409 (office) or +1-617-331-2984 (mobile).