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World Coffee Producers Forum to connect the chain

From the April 2019 issue.

The 2019 edition of the World Coffee Producers Forum will bring together the entire production chain to address immediate action on the industry’s most challenging issues.

In 2016, Rio de Janeiro hosted the Summer Olympics, attracting the world’s best athletes to the South American destination in pursuit of greatness and gold. In July 2019, the world will once again descend upon the country, only this time in pursuit of resolutions and action to help secure the future of the global coffee industry.

In its second edition, the World Coffee Producers Forum (WCPF) will take place in Campinas, Brazil at the Royal Palm Hall from 10 to 11 July.

Created as a platform for producers to voice their concerns on the many issues threatening their livelihoods and production, this year the WCPF will bring together about 2000 attendees representing more than 40 coffee producing countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, with members of the wider coffee industry. This will include producers, roasters, exporters and importers, government officials, non-government organisations (NGOs), industry leaders, traders, and multilateral agencies.

The forum’s agenda, prepared by coffee growers, will discuss pressing matters of coffee pricing, socio-environmental issues, climate change, economic sustainability, and rising production costs.

With 20 years of experience in agribusiness, the Executive Director of the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association Vanúsia Nogueira will host this year’s WCPF, and is one of the event’s main speakers.

“We started having discussions about four years ago and realised there are a lot of big conferences around the world that are all organised by consumers and by roasters, but there was no conference organised for the producers. We knew we needed to talk about it,” Nogueira says.

“The forum committee decided to create an open discussion where producers constructed an agenda about issues in the coffee sector. From there, the forum committee planned its first WCPF in July 2017, where we had panels about social and environmental change, and economic sustainability.”

This year, the two-day event will see a panel of industry leaders highlight challenges within the coffee community and offer solutions through a variety of forums and workshops. Forums will be centered around three pillars of sustainability (social, environmental, and economic), climate change, and productivity levels.

“Everybody is worried about social and environmental sustainability, but no-one is concerned about economic sustainability. We know this is an issue for producers. This is why this year’s forum agenda will [focus on] economic sustainability. There is no easy solution. If there was, we would’ve applied it [already],” Nogueira says. 

She adds that having an open platform like WCPF is a unique opportunity for industry leaders and producers to work together and strive for resolutions.

“Before the first forum, representatives didn’t talk to other producers that much. We used to act as competitors. Since then, we’ve realised we have to contribute together as we have so many common issues,” Nogueira says. 

This includes the industry’s vulnerable coffee pricing structure, which reached its lowest price point in 14 years with a low of 97.44 US cents per pound in February 2019, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO). Nogueira says increasingly, farmers are being challenged due to rising production and distribution costs, price of equipment, climate change and disease management.

The first WCPF in 2017 Medellín, Colombia saw support from former United States President Bill Clinton, where he participated in a forum with then Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on economic sustainability and rural development to promote global stability and democracy. Clinton told the overflowing audience of more than 1000 delegates about Medellín’s transformation into a global coffee leader and “smart” rural and coffee development.

“With Bill Clinton’s presence we got a lot of attention from the press, NGOs, and America. We realised from here we couldn’t stop,” Nogueira says.

“This is a learning opportunity, to be a part of an open discussion. We need to have every type of person involved in the coffee supply chain, including NGOs and the media, to help us think about solutions for producers.”

This year, the world-renowned expert and leader in sustainable development Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Colombia University’s Earth Institute will be a keynote speaker. He will present his findings from an economic and political study in order to help improve the yields of small coffee producers.

“We’ve asked Jeffrey Sachs to conduct a study of a local coffee sector and to present a neutral diagnosis and his results. He will also address major sector issues, such as pricing,” Nogueira says. 

Along with Sachs, the forum will also see three additional panels discussing topics such as coffee price formulation, and how to protect producers’ incomes and promote and increase consumption, using Brazil as a reference for other producing countries. All conferences and panels will be simultaneously translated into Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese.

“The panel we have selected is made of very technical people who can tell us about their participation in the coffee sector and offer advice,” Nogueira says. 

Industry experts making up the panels include José Sette, Executive Director of the ICO; Carlos Brando, Chairman of the Global Coffee Platform; Sarah Mason, founder of Shift Social Impact Solutions; Annette Pensel, Executive Director of the Global Coffee Platform; and Nathan Herszkowicz, Director of the Brazilian Coffee Industry Association.

After the completion of the WCPF, it is hoped that attendees return to their respective countries with defined outcomes and solutions of how to work jointly and co-responsibly to make permanent changes to issues that compromise the future supply of coffee.

Nogueira hopes the WCPF will “continues to grow, combining the minds of producers and industry leaders alike”. But as the WCPF reiterates in its message to the industry: “It is clear: No action is not an option.”

For more information, visit www.worldcoffeeproducersforum.com.br

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