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Coffee Org must review sustainable recommendations

International Coffee Organization must review the recommendations for a sustainable coffee sector

The International Coffee Organization (ICO) must heed the recommendations on sustainability put forth by Cameroon, Honduras and the United States and make the interests of 25 million small-scale family coffee farmers across the world an integral part of its work when it meets in London starting today, says international development organization Oxfam.

The ICO is in the midst of renewing its operating charter, the International Coffee Agreement (ICA). Oxfam and other groups representing small-scale family coffee farmers say that the renewed charter will be vital in helping to level the playing field for millions of poor farming families around the world whose livelihoods are being destroyed because they can't compete in the global market due to unequal terms.

As its September meetings begin today, the ICO will have an opportunity to consider recommendations from coffee producing and consuming countries that emphasize the need to create a more sustainable coffee sector.

"A more sustainable coffee supply chain benefits everyone in it -from the largest roasters to the 25 million small-scale coffee farmers and farmworkers struggling every day to make a living," said Seth Petchers, the coffee lead for Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign. "The ICO is hearing this message from member countries- now it's time for action."

The ICO is the only dedicated forum for discussing coffee-related matters at the international level, bringing together coffee-producing and consuming countries around one table. It could be the focal point for international cooperation to bring about a truly sustainable coffee economy.

World coffee prices plummeted in 1999, devastating coffee farming communities around the world. Despite recent improvements, the price continues to fluctuate and the crisis for coffee farmers persists. To make matters worse, they don't have enough access to credit and information to plan and market their crops.

A paper released this year by Oxfam International and twelve allies (see below for full list) called Grounds for Change: Creating a Voice for Small Coffee Farmers and Farmworkers with the Next International Coffee Agreement, recommends the ICO:

1. create forums within the organization dedicated to making coffee production more sustainable;

2. ensure fair representation of small-scale farmers and farmworkers alongside of coffee companies;

3. create systems so that all parties, including farmers, have access to relevant coffee sector information;

4. and facilitate coordinated, well-resourced responses to the crucial issues facing small-scale farmers including: technical assistance, risk management and access to credit.

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