Brazilian cooperatives representing thousands of coffee farmers are threatening to protest if the Brazilian government does not assist the coffee industry amid historically low Arabica prices.
Minas Gerais-based cooperatives Cooparaiso and Coocafe have led to the development of what they are calling the Pacto do Cafe, an 18-step “Coffee Pact” that outlines ways the government can help bring new technology and processing equipment to mountainous growing regions to support the livelihoods of its farmer membership, many of whom are smallholders. The groups are urging other Brazilian producers to sign the pact, giving the government a Nov. 14 deadline to pledge some industry support before they will take unspecified protest measures.
Brazil, by far the world’s largest coffee producer, has taken some steps to help coffee farmers this year, but the cooperatives are saying that steadily declining coffee prices with no short-term relief in sight are causing farmers to break even or lose money, and abandon farms. Brazilian news source Globo.com first reported on the petition last week, and the Wall Street Journal followed up on Friday, with sources hinting at what protests might involve:
“Every co-op, every coffee group is already thinking about what they’re going to do if nothing happens by Thursday,” said Francisco Ourique, superintendent of coffee of the Cooparaiso cooperative, based in the town of São Sebastião do Paraíso, in the southern part of Minas Gerais state. Minas Gerais produces about half of Brazil’s coffee crop.
Possibilities include a mass march on the capital of Brasilia by coffee growers, road blockades, blocking the entrances to bank branches in coffee-growing areas and withholding sales of coffee for 30 days, according to groups backing the pact.
Coffee-growers groups gave the pact to agriculture ministry officials two weeks ago, but the ministry wouldn’t say if the government would have a response by the deadline.