This audio was recorded live at the first World Coffee Producers Forum in Medellín, Colombia in 2017.

You can access all of my archived material from the event here.

Mr José Sette, Executive Director, ICO
Recorded: 11 July, 2017
Transcribed: 20 April, 2018

Jose Sette, WCPF 2017
© Photo by Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC). Used with permission.

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…tackling the issues facing the world sector through international cooperation.

Today our membership includes almost all coffee producing nations and almost 80% of world coffee consumption. Our members recognize the importance of coffee to the economies of many countries, especially in efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals. They also recognize the importance of coffee to the livelihoods of more than 100 million people all over the world, many of them smallholder farmers.

Coffee is a much-needed source of foreign exchange and rural income, as well as a key contributor to food security. In its more than 50 years of existence, the ICO has learned to adapt and become a convergence platform for all initiatives promoting the sustainable development of the world coffee economy.

In order to retain its relevance in today’s world, the ICO is currently finalizing a review of its activities, which will result in a new action plan covering the next five years. I will now share with you some thoughts about the future of the organization.

The most important challenge we face is how to make the world coffee sector more sustainable. We must ensure a healthy environment, in which commercial sectors of the global industry are aligned with the needs of the other links in the global coffee value chain, thereby achieving sustainability over time. This is the overarching mission of the ICO.

In our work, we must strike the right balance among all three pillars of sustainability; economic, social, and environmental. Many times, sustainability work focuses too narrowly on social and environmental questions, while the economic welfare of parts of the value chain, especially growers, is relegated to a secondary plane. Above all, sustainability must be grower-centric, since farmers are the basis for the entire coffee value chain.

Now, how can the ICO make a difference and help overcome the challenges we face? One key tool in improving decision making in the sector is the provision of accurate and comprehensive data, especially with regards to production. Efforts will be concentrated on strengthening the quality of our statistics and economic analysis.

One should remember, however, that our statistical work depends heavily on data submitted by members, which, unfortunately, is often incomplete, out of date, or unreliable. In order to remedy this decision we intend to work closely and build up the capacity of members to provide data by organizing workshops and providing appropriate reference materials.

A second strategic goal is to enhance the ICO’s role as a forum for a discussion of coffee matters. The ICO is uniquely placed to provide a platform for dialogue between the public and private sectors by acting as a convener, catalyst, and source of reference, source to share experiences, and prove the consistency of coffee policy making on a global level. For example, at the next session of the international coffee counsil, which will be held in September of this year, in Côte d’Ivoire, we intend to highlight the question of productivity. Countries that have created an enabling environment for high productivity in coffee farming will be invited to present their experiences and lessons learned so that best practices will be shared among ICO members.

The ICO will also identify the specific actions necessary to increase the engagement of members and other stakeholders with a view to providing better coordination of the various initiatives that address the major challenges facing the coffee sector. We must reach out and strengthen the organizations relations with the private sector and civil society by finding fresh and innovative ways to work together.

A third priority is to address the needs of farmers for greater access to finance. In this context, I would like to mention that the organization, in conjunction with the Inter-African coffee organization and the African Development Bank is assisting in the creation of an Africa coffee facility to help coffee farmers in that continent. We will attempt to replicate this approach in other producing regions.

I would urge financial investment institutions that are attending this forum, to consider collaborating with the ICO in financing coffee farmers. We must all come together to help the smallholders who are desperate for access to finance.

And a fourth area, in which the ICO plays a key role is in the promotion of coffee consumption. This year will mark the third addition of the International Coffee Day, another important ICO initiative. Through the International Coffee Day’s innovative marketing strategies, the ICO can help boost the image of coffee without the need to resort to massive expenditures.

For reasons of time, I will not be able today to present further proposals to address other important challenges faced by the world coffee sector, such as climate change, pest and diseases, gender empowerment, increasing costs of key inputs, and an aging farmer population. All of these issues will be addressed in the five year action plan that will soon be finalized.

Returning to our common objective; the sustainability of the world coffee sector, we must not lose sight of our many achievements. Having recently worked as the head of another international commodity body, I feel well-qualified to put this question in perspective. Coffee is further advanced on the road to sustainability than other agricultural commodities. However, much still remains to be done, especially on the economic plane.

Finally, we must always bear in mind the benefits that coffee brings to the world. Together we can make a change. And I urge all of you, in your various capacities, to work with the ICO for a sustained future for coffee. Let us all join together to find a creative approaches [sic] to overcome the challenges we face. In doing so, the ICO is your partner, and you can count on the support of the organization, which is uniquely placed to address all issues that directly or indirectly involve the public sector of countries with an interest in coffee. Muchas gracias. Thank you.

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