International Talks Over Coffee Prices at an Impasse
Three days of informal talks between coffee producers this week ended with no promise of new world coffee negotiations and no agreement--except to let the free market continue to rule.
“The positions are still the same as they were in July,” James Wapakabhulo, chairman of the International Coffee Organization executive council, told a news conference when the talks ended.
“I am not going to call a meeting until I am convinced we can meet and succeed,” said Wapakabhulo, Uganda’s Minister for Cooperatives and Marketing.
The export quota system of supply restraints of the 74-nation ICO broke down July 4 amid bitter disputes among producers about market shares and consumer frustration with availability of desirable coffees, especially high quality “mild” or washed arabicas.
The basic problem was changing consumer tastes, which increased the value of milder coffees at the expense of more traditional strains like robustas. The inability of the 1983 coffee agreement to satisfy this demand was what brought the house crashing down.