India should head world coffee body: Africa (Lead, superseding earlier story)

September 28th, 2008 - 4:45 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 28 (IANS) India has been elected chairman of the International Coffee Organisation’s (ICO) executive board, a step that a senior African diplomat hoped would take it to the very top of the London-based body.Josefa Leonel Correia, the Angolan diplomat representing the African continent at the ICO, said Africa will support a bid by India to lead the organisation at the next election for the post of the executive director, due in 2012.

“I very much hope that India will lead this organisation in 2012. Leadership should be on a rotational basis. Africa will support India’s candidature,” Correia, secretary-general of the Inter African Coffee Organisation (IACO), told IANS.

The ICO is an intergovernmental organisation representing 77 exporting and importing countries. It is often seen as a talking club that has been dominated by Latin American countries since its inception in 1962 and Correia’s comments signalled the start of a move that could break the tradition.

The election to the post Friday evening means India will be responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of the body as it moves toward an important new phase.

India’s election comes at a crucial moment in the ICO’s history as it moves towards a new International Coffee Agreement, which was formally adopted by members this week.

The agreement - the sixth in the body’s history - will pave the way for new activities aimed at protecting the livelihoods of the 25 million poor who produce 70 percent of the world’s coffee.

India, which will be represented by Coffee Board chairman G.V. Krishna Rau, could help transform the world of coffee - the second largest traded commodity after oil.

Indian diplomats say that as with a number of other commodities, the direction of the global trade in coffee is shifting towards Asia, and with India’s emergence as an economic power it is seen to be a strong contender for leadership of the ICO.

India is the sixth largest producer of coffee and has a rapidly growing coffee-consuming middle class poised to rival the US and Europe for size. At the same time, its coffee growers are mostly small farmers, not unlike those who produce bulk of the commodity in Africa’s 23 coffee-growing nations.

“India is now a global player, and coffee is a growing industry. The coffee industry has to be re-invested in India,” ICO executive director Nestor Osorio, a Colombian, told IANS.

“It is a sophisticated industry with two million extra bags added to the global production every year. It has a growth rate of two percent - that shows there is dynamism in coffee,” Osorio added.

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