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close this book GATE - 2/95 - Reducing risks for small coffee farmers
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Dear Readers,

Coffee comes second to crude oil as the most important exported raw material on the world market. About one third of the coffee beans traded world wide are produced by some 15 million small farmers and their families. When, in 1992, the coffee price dropped to its lowest level since 1950 these small farmers had to bear income losses of up to 60%. The economic research institutes forecast that following 1994's boom, coffee prices will again rise by 24% in 1995. But a drop of some 13 % is already looming for 1996. The enormous price fluctuations are the chief cause of small farmers difficulties.

This issue's Focus inquires into how small coffee producers can reduce their risk factor in the coffee business. An overview of the situation on the free world market puts forward two ways for farmers to stabilise their income: by producing high-quality coffee and by actively participating in the different steps of processing and marketing, e.g. by joining together in cooperatives. Another way of becoming less dependent on fluctuating coffee prices is to introduce a more diversified cropping system. An overview of the different processing methods is followed by a presentation of a combined coffee pulping and water mill in Tanzania and a report from Jamaica describing environmentally friendly ways of using wastewater from coffee.

Just as in the marketing of raw coffee via the "fair trade" system, the cultivation of organic coffee can help reduce dependence on world-market price fluctuations. Organic coffee is becoming a more and more attractive prospect. A report from the small farmer cooperative in Colombia shows how organic coffee growing can contribute to community development.

Barbel Röben