EAST HANOVER, NJ - During yesterday's Annual General Meeting of shareholders, Kraft Foods- one of the world's two largest coffee companies which retails such coffee brands as Maxwell House and Gevalia, was the focus of actions around the world by Oxfam supporters. Oxfam is asking Kraft to address the poverty of the 25 million coffee farmers facing ruin from the global coffee crisis.
The Kraft Chairman and CEOs were questioned inside the AGM by Oxfam staff and an Ethiopian coffee farmer. During questions, Kraft officials admitted to the problem, but rejected any of the proposed solutions. The Chairman of Kraft Foods, Louis Camilleri claimed sensitivity to the plight of farmers, but said the problem is one of oversupply, "Our duty is to increase demand."
Responds Oxfam Coffee Coordinator Liam Brody, "If Kraft's solution to this crisis is to increase demand, then Kraft should step up to the plate: they should launch and build demand for Fair Trade certified coffee."
Dessalgn Jena, who came from Ethiopia to personally explain the impact of the crisis on coffee farmers told Kraft, "We need a fair price for our coffee. That's the solution. Right now, Kraft's profit is our loss." Kraft's net earnings increased significantly in the last year.
OXFAM ASKED KRAFT TO ADDRESS THE COFFEE CRISIS BY:
1. Paying a decent price to coffee farmers including committing to buy 5% of Kraft's total coffee from Fair Trade Certified suppliers within three years. This would ensure farmers’ ability to earn enough income to feed their families and continue farming.
Kraft’s response: "At present, we don't see the demand."
2. Purchasing coffee that meets current International Coffee Organization quality standards. The deterioration in the quality of coffee will cause consumer demand to dip further exacerbating the glut of poor quality coffee on the market which in turn drives down prices.
Kraft’s response: Confirmed that they purchase coffee from Vietnam and Indonesia where the beans do not meet international standards for coffee quality.
3. Supporting and funding global initiatives that address the causes of the coffee crisis.
Kraft’s response: They will attend the World Bank ICO meeting in May. Made no public commitment around funding. No indication of what recommendations they would support.
Oxfam supporters confronted Kraft officials yesterday in Belgium, the Netherlands & Germany. Other public actions took place in Canada, Australia, Spain and England.