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Oxfam Urges U.S. to Immediately Rejoin International Coffee Organization; Time for Stalling is Over Says Development Agency

Oxfam Urges U.S. to Immediately Rejoin International Coffee Organization; Time for Stalling is Over Says Development Agency

Business Editors/Political Writers

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–March 24, 2004

In the wake of talks between President Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Oxfam called on the US Government to immediately rejoin the International Coffee Organization (ICO).

The international development agency expressed optimism after the talks between the two leaders, during which time they discussed the importance of US involvement in developing solutions to the global coffee crisis. However, officials of the agency noted frustration with the lack of an explicit US commitment to rejoin the ICO prior to its Executive Board meeting, which takes place in just over a month.

“While the US has delayed a decision to rejoin the ICO, small farmers in Africa, Latin America, and Asia fall deeper into poverty because of drastically low coffee prices,” stated Katherine Daniels, Trade Policy Advisor at Oxfam America. “The US decision on whether to rejoin the ICO has been tangled in an interminable interagency process. The world’s small coffee farmers simply can’t wait any longer while the US mulls over this decision. For them, every day is a matter of survival.”

In 2002, Congress passed resolutions recommending quick action by the Administration in solving the coffee crisis. In addition, Congress provided $500,000 for the US’ membership in the ICO.

The price of coffee is now at its lowest level in almost a century. According to a new World Bank report, prices have declined 3 percent per year on average since the 1970s. This price decline is causing small coffee farmers around the world to abandon their crops, migrate to already crowded urban areas in search of new work, and, in some cases, cultivate more profitable but illicit crops such as the drug plants coca and khat.

Oxfam works with small coffee farmers in coffee producing countries such as Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Laos. But, according to Oxfam, development agencies can’t end the crisis alone–the commitment of the international community, especially the US, is needed to address the problem.

“The decision to return to the ICO should not be used by the US as a bargaining chip in negotiations on other trade issues with Colombia,” said Daniels. “It is time for the US to get off the sidelines and recognize that the coffee crisis is a matter of national security.”

For more information about the coffee crisis and Oxfam’s response to it, please visit www.oxfamamerica.org/coffee.

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