Witnessing coffee history

This week I attended the 125th Session of the International Coffee Council (ICC) and witnessed leading coffee roasters and traders agree to the historic declaration on the economic sustainability of the world coffee industry.

It was the first CEO and Global Leaders Forum organised by the International Coffee Organisation (ICO), the main intergovernmental organisation for coffee, in response to Resolution 465 on Coffee Price Levels that was adopted by the ICC in September 2018.

The forum opened sector-wide dialogue to address the coffee price crisis, and was the first time major players in the private sector across the coffee value chain have come together to discuss solutions to the issue.

So far, a dozen companies have signed a Declaration of Intent: illycaffé, Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE), Lavazza, Mercon, Nestlé, Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, Olam, Starbucks, Sucafina, Tchibo and Volcafe.

The Declaration has also been supported by the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Fair Trade Producers (CLAC),Fairtrade International, Global Coffee Platform, Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung, IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative, National Coffee Association of USA, Oikocredit, Rainforest Alliance, Rusteacoffee, Specialty Coffee Association and the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.

Called the London Declaration, all signatories and supporting organisations commit to taking action on four themes: promoting competitive and sustainable production; fostering responsible and equitable growth; promoting responsible consumption; and promoting public-private dialogue regarding policy development.

All parties have also agreed to form an action plan ahead of the nest CEO and Global Leaders Forum taking place at the World Coffee Conference in Bangalore, India in April 2020.

The London Declaration on price levels, price volatility and the long-term sustainability of the coffee sector, presented to the 125th Session of the International Coffee Council by the Private Sector Consultative Board, is available at:http://www.ico.org/documents/cy2018-19/pscb-161e-london-declaration.pdf

The Declaration comes just ahead of International Coffee Day, where the focus is on highlighting the coffee price crisis to industry and consumers alike.

Every year on 1 October, the world comes together to celebrate coffee and recognise the millions of people across the globe – from farmers, to roasters, baristas, coffee shop owners and more  – who are collectively involved in coffee production.

Coffee has never been more popular, with an estimated 3 billion cups consumed every day.

While International Coffee Day (ICD) celebrates our favourite beverage, it is also a time to improve coffee’s future. At present, in spite of growing demand, coffee faces a dramatic issue, as the prices that producers receive today are more than 30% below the average of the last ten years, threatening the livelihoods of coffee farmers and their families.

Due to an increase in crop yields, causing two consecutive years of surplus in the market, there is currently a global oversupply of coffee. This oversupply is driving down the market price of coffee that farmers are paid (to a 15-year low).  At the same time the cost of production has increased (labour, fertiliser, land etc) meaning farmers don’t make enough to survive, and while the cup of coffee in a café may not be any cheaper, the amount that farmers are paid for their crop yield can be as little as 1 cent (USD) per cup.

This year, the ICO is working to highlight the plight of coffee farmers, the threat they are facing to their livelihoods and the need to take collective action. While the price of a cup of coffee has never been higher, the amount that coffee farmers are paid for the beans they produce is at an all time low. Farmers are not earning enough to provide for themselves and their families and may have to turn away from producing coffee altogether.

The global coffee community is coming together to address this issue, and the ICO is asking everyone involved in coffee, from producers, to roasters, governments, banks and the coffee drinking public to sign the #coffeepledge, in support of a living income for coffee farmers.

I ask you to sign the #coffeepledge here.


  • A guest blog from Kat Skeates, digital editor of Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. Contact her via [email protected]


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