World Coffee Producers Forum, Day 1

Talk about drinking from the firehose! There was an enormous amount of information given today via introductions from three heads of state, one vice president, and one former president of the United States, then three separate panels, as well as a presentation over lunch. Distinguished guests include (in order of appearance):

President of the Republic of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos
Chairman Of The Board Of Directors of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, Mr. Carlos Alberto Cardona
President of the Republic Of Costa Rica, Mr. Luis Guillermo Solís
President of the Republic Of Honduras, Mr. Juan Orlando Hernández
Vice President of the Republic Of El Salvador, Mr. Oscar Ortiz
Executive Director of the International Coffee Organization, Mr. José D. Sette
Panel discussion: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and former U.S. President William J. Clinton

I will have more posts about the first day, for sure. Especially given the amount of information I have to break down. For this post, I want to focus on something that popped up spontaneously—frustration of the farmers and a disconnect in what each side—panelists and farmers—saw as a viable solution.

See also: World Coffee Producers Forum

The panelists largely spoke in terms of buzzwords; developing frameworks, increasing efficiencies, scalability, etc., (a generalization, but not a gross one). But when it came time for Q&A, the farmers were asking for concrete answers and eactionable solutions. They wanted to know how their situation was going to be improved today.

One farmer was very blunt: ”We need a policy out of this forum!”

The forum is also seen by the farmers as an opportunity to organize. There are farmers or farmer-representatives from over 40 different producing countries here and they definitely see value in a global, farmer organization.

In this regard I think they are very right: with such an organization they could share experiences, knowledge, etc from vastly different geopolitical regions. For example, one of the questions was ‘what does the C-market price reflect?’ It can’t possibly reflect the vastly different flavor characteristics of over 40 different producing countries! So how do farmers get a fair price for a unique coffee flavor created by their unique geographic location, when the price for their coffee is so tied to an unsympathetic ’market’ that includes price information completely external to the farm?

The producers found a lot of value in this first day of the forum and I’m not sure it’s the value the organizers anticipated!

@TheCoffeePodCas said it well:

The problems are complex and there are a lot of different actors involved. There will not be any simple solutions. But the dialogue has started and that’s half the battle!

Watch my short video recap of the first day:

Updated July 18, 2017: Listed distinguised guests, embedded video, and added author info.

Michael C. Wright

Michael is a licensed Q Grader, licensed Q Processor Pro, an Authorized SCA Trainer (AST), and most recently, a graduate with a degree in horticulture and a concentration in horticultural business management. He has over ten years experience in the coffee industry operating on both the supply and demand sides of the value chain.