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Coffee Goes to Washington

The National Coffee Association of the USA (NCA) recently issued a statement opposing a proposed Federal legislation limiting the importation of green coffee by establishing a new defect-level standard, which is being pushed in Washington.

The draft legislation, “Coffee Purity Act of 2002,” would require any coffee entering the country with more than 86 defects for Arabica and 150 defects for Robusta coffee to be labeled as “coffee by-product.” Any subsequent products made from this material would also need to be labeled “coffee by-product.”

Supporters of the draft legislation - including the Colombian Coffee Federation, the Mexican Coffee Council, a coalition of Central American producers and the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) say the bill is designed to increase coffee prices in response to the coffee crisis and to protect American consumers from what they term “lower quality coffee.”

But the NCA says the draft bill would have no impact on global supply and demand, and would do nothing to resolve the global coffee crisis, reduce the current world oversupply of coffee, or support the sustainable coffee production the international coffee industry requires. Instead, they say, it would put the American coffee industry at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the world, it would do nothing for the current supply/demand imbalance in coffee around the world, it would put barriers up for international trade (making things worse for the producing nations), and lower U.S. coffee consumption because of higher coffee prices.

They say that green coffee refused entry to the U.S. would not reduce world coffee supply. Instead, refused coffee would merely find other destinations outside the U.S. There, it could be processed into finished coffee products for use throughout the world - or even in the U.S, at prices U.S. roasters would be unable to pay because of their inability to source this less expensive material.

Supporters of the proposed bill, they say, “ignore the importance of the wide variety of flavor and quality in the U.S., appealing to the widest possible variety of consumer preference, that has contributed to ubiquity of coffee in American life.”

Also putting their two cents in at our nation’s capitol recently is the International Coffee Association. Nestor Osorio, the ICO’s executive director, visited with senior officials of the State Department, the Office of the U.S Trade Representative, and the National Security Council at the White House in December, to discuss the social and economic implications of the coffee crisis, as well as the importance of U.S. membership with the ICO in order to assist in mobilizing actions to address the problems. The U.S. authorities agreed to establish a close dialogue and to continue speaking with the ICO, and indicated that they will be discussing this matter amongst themselves.

These issues will sure to be well discussed at the upcoming annual convention of the NCA, March 6-9, as they return to Boca Raton, the site of many past NCA conventions.

Jane McCabe
Editor & Co-Publisher

Tea & Coffee - February/March, 2003

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