September 25, 2019 / 4:48 PM / 20 days ago

Colombia urges coffee buyers to close earnings gap with farmers

BOGOTA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Coffee-producing countries must work to close the “abysmal gap” in earnings between farmers and buyers, Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Wednesday, as growers continue to struggle amid low prices.

Colombia has repeatedly urged, without success, for major buyers to pay larger premiums for coffee - especially the high-quality arabica beans that its farmers grow.

Arabica coffee futures have hovered around $1 per lb this year, leading some growers to consider planting alternative crops or selling their farms.

“The income that remains today for the small producers doesn’t reach even 10% of the total value of the chain,” Duque said after meeting with representatives from 30 coffee-producing countries including Brazil, Vietnam, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Indonesia and others on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Those that trade the product and those that really produce it in the most rural areas of our countries have an abysmal gap and it’s our duty to try and close it,” Duque said, according to statements from the government and the national coffee growers federation.

“I invite you to continue with the commitment to adopt within our countries this vision of sustainability in the whole chain - starting with the sustainability and protection of the small producers,” Duque added.

Roberto Velez, the head of Colombia’s coffee federation, said in the statement that “the coffee grower cannot be the only one who does not receive the benefits of the market.”

The federation has suggested high-quality producers untether their prices from the New York market, though traders say the proposal may send buyers elsewhere.

The U.S. National Coffee Association has said its members, who include major chains Starbucks Corp and Peet’s Coffee & Tea Inc, agree growth requires stability for farmers, but price controls are generally unsuccessful.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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