Tea and Coffee: Celebrating Their Cultural, Social and Economic Importance

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

Global tea and coffee experts came together to explore and celebrate the cultural, social, and economic importance of the world’s two most popular beverages including their role in making agri-food systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

The Dialogue on Tea and Coffee, part of World Food Day celebrations hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), focused on the tea and coffee sectors and their importance as a vital source of income and employment for millions of people in developing countries. Smallholder farmers and farming households produce an estimated 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, of the global tea and coffee outputs. Both sectors underpin the lives of millions of labourers, including women and their families, and are important contributors to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Our dialogue today constitutes a renewed commitment to celebrate peace, unity and exchange between civilizations and cultures,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in his opening speech. “It also serves to highlight the achievements of tea and coffee farmers across the globe, and to remind all of us of the challenges that lie ahead.”

Speakers included José Dauster Sette, Executive Director of the International Coffee Organization, Prabhat Bezboruah, Chairman of Tea Board India and Vice-Chair and host of the next Session of the Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on Tea, Jacklene Arinda, Executive Director of JADA Coffee, Shabnam Weber, President of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada, Tom Standage, Deputy Editor of The Economist, Vanessa L. Facenda, Editor of the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, and Andrea Illy, Chair of illycaffè and Co-Founder of Fondazione Ernesto Illy.

The event highlighted tea and coffee production as a key element of the transformation of agri-food systems and touched on the issues facing the sectors, including the climate crisis, sustainability, low levels of productivity, price volatility, and the price-cost squeeze faced by actors along the value chain. The conversation sparked possible solutions to overcome these challenges, avail of new market opportunities and meet the sustainability issues associated with the production of both drinks.

For the tea and coffee sectors to remain viable and provide families with a sustained source of income, Qu Dongyu urged that “concrete solutions” be promoted on both the production and consumption sides, as well as throughout the value chains. The discussion was an opportunity to revive our determination to enhance the sustainability of tea and coffee, “bringing them to the forefront of the policy action,” he said.

Considering the many benefits offered and challenges faced, tea and coffee production are an important element of the transformation of agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life. FAO’s new Strategic Framework, based on the four betters -better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind – aims to support the attainment of these objectives and the realisation of the 2030 Agenda.

Source: FAO