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Springtime and congresses.

Springtime and Congresses

There are congresses and then there are CONGRESSES. Regarding coffee, the events are usually well organized, well attended and of value to those who spend time and money to be part of them. Yet some industry/trade congresses are undeniably more memorable than others, due perhaps to a special place or time. Such has been true this spring of 1990, most particularly as to the coffee meetings held in Spain and Germany.

Spanish Spirit

Valencia is a diplomat's best choice for a Spanish national coffee congress-it is not Madrid, it is not Barcelona, it is middle ground between the might of Spain's industrial north and the proud spirit of the south. It is also a charming city, and capital of a region that has a thriving coffee industry of its own whose business association (ALCAFE, for Asociacion Levantina de Cafe) has hosted the congress throughout its twelve editions.

This congress has evolved from a purely regional affair to national status, an achievement unto itself in Spain, and now to international status. The most recent edition, held in May, attracted some 200 delegates in addition to numerous guests and `observers.' Surely not a single green coffee Spanish firm was absent from the meeting rooms, crowded bars and anterrooms of the Hotel Sidi Saler-a very large and elegant establishment directly situated on the beach. The representation of Spanish roasters was perhaps not as complete, but highly impressive. Basically, the event has earned the attention of all viable members of Spain's coffee community. If you want to learn about coffee in Spain, north to south, or do business in Spain, this is the congress to catch. The fact explains the number of attendees from other European community nations and the wiring for simultaneous translations.

The people on the podium also reflected the international status of the congress-Dr. Carla Severini of the University of Bologna, Aurora Bernaldez as Spain's permanent ICO delegate and chief of the Commercial Office at the Spanish Embassy in London, Paul Moeller of Volcafe, Simon Onchere of Kenya Coffee Board, Philippe Jobin from Le Havre, Jean Francois Molay from Cafes Suavor in Paris, Hernan Uribe from Colombia's National Federation.

These speakers had a most attentive and packed audience. What remains noteworthy of this congress is that the Spanish roasters and traders obviously came to listen and learn as much as to huddle in corners and transact (which is what we normally expect at any coffee meeting in any nation). There was a spirit of seriousness and intensity in Valencia that remains remarkable.

Obviously the list of speakers and themes for the congress had been drawn to satisfy real concerns in Spain-principally as to upgrading technical know-how among roasters, sensitizing the industry to the genuine crisis in quality now damaging the Spanish market, and investigating Spain's place in the international and EC coffee market. These themes were supported by the domestic speakers as well, including Abelardo Jurado of Union Tostadora, Ramon Prats of Nestle Espana, Javier Munoz de Baena of Sofco and Emilio Garcia.

In terms of opening technical advances to a large audience of roasters, stressing the gospel of improved coffee quality and bringing global market views to a domestic audience, the Valencia Congress could serve as a model for any `national' congress. Quite simply, this two-day event, dressed with fine meals and pleasant company, was a successful and impressive get-together that helps brighten a spring that has been clouded for too many by the depressed coffee market and worry for the future of cup standards.

Bravo Berlin

The same bothersome `clouds' were a prominent feature at the Congress held two weeks later in Berlin. In fact, at times during the three days of the 7th International Coffee Congress one could readily have expected a storm over the tensions arising from a lifeless green coffee market and the widely varying impact it is having on roasters, green trade and producers. `Tense' the meeting most certainly was, but contention never broke the surface of what turned out to be one of the largest and best managed coffee meetings on record.

The Berlin Congress drew about 1000 coffee people, from across Europe-west and east-and from around the world. Actual registered participants reached approximately 750. The delegates roster read like a who's-who of international coffee trade and industry. If the justification for such an expensive and arduous project, the planning and presentation of a congress, is to bring the coffee world together than Berlin must score as a resounding success.

And what were the popular tunes to be heard in Berlin this June? We will have no renewal of quota agreement in the near future; price problems may likely solve themselves in 18 months as `natural' free market mechanisms begin to be effective; the world is now well stocked in coffees but not in certain key qualities; Brazilian production will disappoint the USDA; in the not-distant future the curnch on availability of quality beans will become an enduring fact of coffee life; consumption globally will be going up perhaps sharply due to the changes in east Europe and growth in the Far East giving us the potential for real pressure on supply. If it does not end soon, the price crisis will begin redrawing the coffee production map.

Popular thinking aside, that the various elements of the international coffee business need an occasional communal gathering is also abundantly clear. Some might grumble at the array of parties and entertainments that mark events like the Berlin Congress, which seems to involve more play and partying and backroom deals than actual scrutiny of association affairs and world coffee problems, but who can possibly judge the ultimate value of bringing cohesion to such farflung and dissimilar interests and viewpoints as those which makeup the coffee family. To paraphase the apologia of metaphysics, if coffee congresses did not exist we would have to invent them.

The organizers of the Berlin Congress, in this respect, deserve praise for turning what might have been a `necessary' bore and command performance into an occasion of some dignity and a considerable measure of good times.

Andalucia '92

As difficult as the Berlin act may be to follow, at least the forthcoming edition has been placed in Spain where dignity and pleasure also seem natural attributes. The next International Coffee Congress has been awarded to Spanish organizers who have chosen the famed Andalucian region to host the event. The year 1992 is now known as the `Year of Spain', marked by the Olympics in Barcelona and the World Expo in Sevilla. It seems fitting enough to add to these our own truly global trade and industry.

The 8th International Coffee Congress, entitled Cafe '92, sponsored by the Spanish Coffee Federation, is scheduled for June 10-13, 1992. Information, reservations are possible from the Congress Secretariat, Luis Vives 5-2*A, 07002 Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

PHOTO : At the Spanish Coffee Congress in Valencia, Spain, it was standing room only this spring. A national meeting, it is increasingly drawing international attention. This year the quality of presentations seemed well suited to the intensity of the audience.
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Title Annotation:Spanish Coffee Congress, Valencia, Spain
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:column
Date:Aug 1, 1990
Words:1184
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