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Central America to discuss response to coffee crisis in conference sponsored by IDB, USAID and World Bank

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2002-- A conference to discuss alternatives to address the present crisis in the international coffee market and its impact on Central American small growers and rural economies will be held April 3-5 in Antigua, Guatemala.

Sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank, the conference will provide a forum for interaction among Central American agriculture ministers, representatives of regional coffee institutions, senior executives from international coffee buyers and roasters, leaders of producer groups and non governmental organizations (NGO’s), and representatives of the three Washington-based international organizations.

Staff of the three development institutions have been working on a joint document, to be released at the Conference, as a contribution to the discussions.

A combination of expanded coffee supply and slow growth in demand has caused coffee prices to drop to their lowest levels in 100 years (when adjusted for inflation.) As a result, some 600,000 temporary and permanent workers have lost their main source of employment. Central American economies are suffering an impact that in financial terms is compared with Hurricane Mitch.

"It’s a silent Mitch, but its social impact can be seen across the region," said a spokesperson representing the common views of the international development institutions involved in the event.

The format of the Conference will combine plenary sessions and interactive discussion groups. The goal is to provide enough space to develop shared conclusions from the meeting that will enable each country to refine its approach to the crisis with the support of the three Washington-based institutions.

The conference will focus on present trends in the coffee market, Central Americas comparative advantage within the coffee sector, consumption trends and commercialization, social and environmental dimensions, options for risk management, the role of public policy and institutions, and opportunities to diversity activities in the rural economy.

Scheduled speakers include Starbucks International Vice President Mary Williams, U.S. National Coffee Association Executive Director Robert Nelson, IDB Division Chief Environment and Natural Resources Management Robert Kaplan, World Bank Sustainable Development Sector Leader Martin Raine, USAID Guatemala and Central American Program Director George Carner, Conservation International Director for the Conservation Coffee Program Matthew Quinlan, and Nicaraguan coffee producers’ co-operative leader Merling Preza.

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