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ICO Commissioning Living-Income Studies in Four Key Coffee Countries


Daily Coffee News file photo by Nick Brown

The International Coffee Organization (ICO) is commissioning a series of living-income benchmarking studies focused on small-scale farmers in the key coffee-growing countries of Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mexico and Vietnam.

The studies will be led by Anker Research Institute, a global network of researchers that is part of the Global Living Wage Coalition. The ICO’s financial commitment to the research has not been disclosed.

The Anker methodology for benchmarking living incomes (for farmers) or living wages (for farmworkers) has been applied to dozens of middle- and low-income countries throughout the world. In the coffee sector, Anker benchmarks have informed the progressive Sustainable Coffee Buyer’s Guide (which now includes Colombia and Mexico), as well as a report from Verité on rural coffee farming in Colombia.

According to the ICO — the intergovernmental agency tasked with overseeing the International Coffee Agreement — newly commissioned living-income benchmark studies will be carried out with the group’s national government members. The ICO said the studies will be “building the capacity for this work to be continued in the country by regional experts,” while they will also build upon existing Anker work.

coffee plant

Living incomes and living wages have become increasingly common metrics in the global coffee industry, in which large corporations have historically profited from millions of small-scale coffee farmers who may live in poverty conditions. Most actors in the field of coffee sustainability view living incomes or wages as milestones towards farmer and worker prosperity, as opposed to end goals.

Despite the modest goal of a decent living income or wages, the metrics are often referenced in terms of “gaps” that apply to large populations of farmers and workers on local, regional and countrywide levels.

“The Anker Living Income Benchmarks will be used for income gap assessments in countries where data exists on smallholder actual incomes,” the ICO said in an announcement today.

“We have a shared responsibility throughout the whole coffee supply chain to achieve prosperous living and sustainable income for the smallholder coffee farmers,” added ICO Executive Director Vanusia Nogueira. “Ensuring a decent living alone is not enough for the coffee farmer who also has to prosper in order to secure the necessary resources to produce coffee sustainably.”

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