ICO and IDH Partnering on ‘Living Income’ Initiatives in the Coffee Sector

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The International Coffee Organization is engaging with The Netherlands-based agency IDH in a partnership designed to help improve prosperity among the world’s coffee farmers. 

Described by outgoing ICO Executive Director José Sette as “wide-ranging,” the strategic partnership will leverage the multi-stakeholder networks of both organizations, which include public agencies, major multinational private-sector coffee buyers and traders, NGOs and others. 

Keeper of the International Coffee Agreement, the ICO is the world’s only intergovernmental agency dedicated to buoying the coffee sector, and its membership includes most of the world’s major coffee exporting and importing countries. Notable exceptions include the United States, Guatemala and Uganda.

IDH, meanwhile, is engaged in sustainability work in numerous agricultural sectors, with a focus on joining private and public stakeholders for large-scale sustainability initiatives.

In coffee, the organization leaned on participation from numerous international coffee companies for its groundbreaking 2019 report on living income gaps among coffee farmers.

In an announcement of the living-income-focused partnership released this morning, both organizations noted the relatively high commodity futures price (a.k.a. C price) of coffee today, yet suggested even high prices leave many farmers at or below poverty levels.


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“Steep rises in price are often an anomaly with farmers holding the bill afterward. When adjusted for inflation, the market price for green coffee has declined over the last 20 years, even as costs of production continue to rise,” Sette said in the announcement. “This wide-ranging partnership will increase movement towards living incomes affording farmers decent livelihoods and the ability to deal with volatile markets.”

The organizations did not disclose any financial obligations associated with the partnership, nor did they release a timetable.

They did say the partnership will involve: adding human and financial resources to the ICO’s ongoing Coffee Private-Public Task Force; co-facilitating the World Coffee Leaders Forum; defining “prosperous income” in various shared initiatives; and working closely with ICO representatives to “normalize key concepts around living income, value distribution, risk distribution and policy alignment.”

“Public-private collaborations, like this partnership, are the key to distributing value more equitably in an inequitable value chain,” IDH Global Director of Agricultural Commodities Jordy van Honk said in the announcement. “Companies need to step up and challenge their assumed roles, and governments must act as critical enablers of rural development.”


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