At its 91st annual convention in Aventura, Florida, the National Coffee Association urged its members and guests to help the struggling growers who have suffered enormously after selling their crops well below production costs for over a year now. Almost all the presentations centered on sustainability and how continued low prices would threaten the supply of quality coffee. Data was revealed that lower prices do not make for high consumption; in fact the opposite happens and consumption declines.
Never before have I seen so many governmental and non-profit organizations invited to attend and participate in an NCA convention. Charismatic Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks Coffee Company, delivered the keynote speech imploring the industry to help the grower. He vented his frustration at being harassed by the media for not doing enough to support the farmers, stating that “Starbucks cannot do it alone, nor should it.” As it is, Schultz explained, they cannot find enough Fair Trade coffee up to their quality standards.
During the convention the NCA released the proceedings of the Coffee Summit held on Feb. 5-6 in Miami, attended by 36 representatives from all industry sectors. Also participating were representatives from academia, government and global aid groups.
Options for consideration addressed included crop diversification, roaster use of long-term contracts, development of farmer risk management and marketing skills, and encouragement of governments to establish a revolving fund to balance social needs.
The recommendations that emerged would be taken back, and it would be up to those nations to choose which options it should and can implement. Robert Nelson, NCA president, stressed that we are part of one global coffee community and that different organizations will work together for the future of this industry.
Luis Fernando Montenegro, president of Guatemala’s Anacafe told the audience that estimated foreign exchange dollars were down 70% from the previous year. Montenegro, as well as the NCA, cited the need for the U.S. to return to the ICO. Although the U.S. State Department is not interested in rejoining the ICO, it does support several ICO projects such as broca research and statistics.
I have never been more proud of the NCA than now, with the steps they have taken to improve the commercial and altruistic aspects of this industry. Under Nelson’s new leadership (now going on six years) and the assertive and sincere chairpeople who have served the NCA of late, this association continues to make significant strides in strengthening our worldwide industry.
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