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Low coffee price talks dominate 124th International Coffee Council

The impact of low coffee prices on smallholder coffee farmers continued to dominate discussions at the 124th session of the International Coffee Council (ICC) which concluded in Nairobi, Kenya on 29 March.

“Kenya is one of the 44 exporting Members of the ICO and one of its founding Members, always actively participating and providing support. The ICO, bringing together importing and exporting countries, but also the private sector, academia and international organisations is a unique and valuable forum for the international coffee community,” says Professor Joe Kieyah, Chairman of the Kenya Coffee Sub-Sector Implementation Committee.

“It has been an honour to host the 124th Session of the ICC, giving the country an opportunity to showcase the nation’s coffee sector, but also the severe challenges facing coffee farmers in Kenya and how the Kenyan Government is working hard to implement President Kenyatta’s transformative coffee reform agenda.”

The Kenyan Government-hosted council brought together the member governments of the International Coffee Organization (ICO), as well as representatives of the wider coffee community in Kenya and across the globe. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta open proceedings Stefanie Küng of Switzerland chaired the event.

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“The ICO has an important role as the voice of the entire world coffee sector to convey this serious situation facing coffee farmers to the outside world, including consumers, the ever-growing roasting community and the wider international community,” ICO Executive Director José Sette says.

“While pursuing this dialogue with key stakeholders, exporting members must also implement structural reforms in order to achieve efficiency and promote an enabling environment for their coffee sectors. A concrete example is our host country, Kenya where the President has implemented a number of institutional, legal and support service interventions which are intended to reverse the negative trends and assure the future of coffee farming in Kenya.

“These include the ambitious rehabilitation of 500 pulping stations in 31 coffee-growing counties, the rehabilitation and provision of planting materials and advancements in research and extension services. Furthermore, with a view to resolving the problem of undue delays in the payment cycle, the Government of Kenya has set up Ksh.3billion (US$29.76 million) Cherry Advance Revolving Fund to be operational from July 2019.”

The ICO presented data showing world coffee consumption is continuing to grow at a rate of two per cent annually. However, millions of coffee growers have to sell their coffee at prices that have fallen by more than 30 per cent over the last two years.

Currently, the organisation says many farmers are unable to even cover their production costs. Consequences of this situation include:
• reduced use of inputs and maintenance of coffee trees, leading to decreased output and lower quality,
• food insecurity and access to basic services such as education and health services, rural impoverishment,
• increased migration to urban areas and developed countries,
• and a host of other social issues.

The ICO does not expect this downward trend in prices to reverse in the near future. It says there is a risk that many countries may cease to produce coffee, leaving the sector much more vulnerable to climatic shocks, pests and diseases.

As a result, the ICO is implementing a series of actions that focus on advocacy and communication, the mobilisation of coffee stakeholders and development partners, research, knowledge-building and transparency, and the promotion of coffee consumption.

On 25 March, the ICO hosted a sustainability seminar in Nairobi ahead of the ICC. This will be followed by other events, in partnership with the International Fund for Agriculture Development at the United Nations in April, with the Italian Government in May and with the European Commission in June. These platforms will culminate in a CEO Forum during the 125th Session of the International Coffee Council, which will be held in London in September 2019.

The objective of the 125th ICC will be to agree on the implementation of actions to overcome the dramatic impact of current coffee prices and volatility on smallholder coffee farmers.

To increase transparency along the coffee value chain, the ICO is producing high-level and relevant independent research and data, including the publication of a Flagship Report on economic sustainability, which will include scenarios on the future of coffee and assessments of the most promising solutions to the current crisis.

“The ICO is here to respond effectively to the needs of our members, including Kenya. It is most welcome therefore that members have reinforced their support for the ICO’s programme to implement Resolution 465 through a series of decisions, so that as the international coffee community we can not only ensure the coffee farming community receives a fair living income, but also the long-term sustainability of the global coffee sector,” Sette says.

For more information, visit www.ico.org

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