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Daily grind.

Joshua Kurlantzick's article on coffee consumption, "Coffee Snobs Unite" (July/August), was interesting and well argued. Unfortunately, he repeats a common error when he writes, "Vietnam didn't do this all on its own--the IMF and World Bank encouraged grower countries to bulk up production as a natural source of hard currency."

The World Bank's agricultural development programs in Vietnam do not endorse or subsidize the expansion of coffee production. This "rural myth" has been floating around for several years. While the inclusion of this error does not undermine the thesis of Kurlantzick's article, it does perpetuate a pernicious journalistic misrepresentation. As a 2002 press release from the World Bank explains, "No World Bank lending has supported the rapid expansion of the Vietnamese coffee industry, contrary to a number of inaccurate press reports. Instead, World Bank lending to the rural sector has focused on diversifying production away from cyclical crops like coffee."

Anthony Demaso

Via email

Joshua Kurlantzick's article, "Coffee Snobs Unite," was one of the most poorly reasoned articles I have seen in your magazine.

The author argues that due to overproduction of cheap coffee, prices have become too low, thus growers go out of business and thus we will end up with a coffee shortage. Except for the last step, this makes perfect sense--if there is overproduction then growers should go out of business, which would then bring us back to "healthy" prices.

Gunnar Martinsson

Department of Mathematics

Yale University

New Haven, Conn.

As the president of the oldest and the leading association representing U.S. coffee companies, I find fault with much of the premise of Joshua Kurlantzick's article on the current crisis affecting the global coffee industry, "Coffee Snobs Unite," but I am particularly concerned about his use of quotes attributed to me.

One statement attributed to me (about coffee quality) is so completely opposite to the position of this organization, my own often-expressed views, and simple fact, that I do not even want to restate it here in order to refute it. All I can say is I have never said anything remotely close to it, and anyone else who may have would be inaccurate.

Robert F. Nelson

President & CEO

National Coffee Association of USA, Inc.

New York, N.Y.

Joshua Kurlantzick replies: In regards to Robert Nelson's complaint about his quote on specialty coffee, I apologize. I attributed to Nelson what should have been attributed to Liam Brody.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Washington Monthly
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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