By Stephanie Daniels
The concept of living income of farmers allows us to consider if the combined effect of various farming practices, voluntary sustainability standards, productivity investments and premiums prices all add up to the conditions under which farmers can afford a decent standard of living. It can facilitate the dialogue regarding the smart mix of industry action, civil society leadership and proactive public sector agricultural policy.
The Food Lab recently participated in the TaskForce for Coffee Living Income led by the Sustainable Trade Initiative to consider the living income gap and procurement practices that could close those gaps in the Colombian coffee sector. The resulting analysis, done by Dutch consultancy New Foresight, shows that the largest gaps and most vulnerable producers are in those market segments where there are low spot prices, a lack of value addition and traceability and where farmers are only loosely organized thus having very little voice or negotiating power. These factors are not new, and many have been highlighted continually by the Fairtrade movement in coffee, but the analysis is helpful in crystallizing the barriers and enablers in the different sourcing models used by coffee buyers. There is evidence that medium and large scale coffee farmers are making a living income, and indeed smaller farmers that sell into higher value specialty coffee markets are faring better than their counterparts in the conventional markets. The recommendations are far reaching and range from strengthening farmer organizations and service delivery programs to price risk management and minimum price schemes. Closing the living income gap in all coffee origins will require a concerted effort by all actors in the sector.
We encourage Food Lab members and partners to read the report, and consider where there are opportunities to build on this approach to improve incomes for farmers. The Food Lab staff will continue to support the coffee sector act on the findings through support from the Living Income Community of Practice. IDH will host a webinar on the analysis on March 10, 2020.