Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu


A Dialogue on Tea and Coffee 

Opening Remarks


Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General,

 As prepared

Friday, 15 October 2021 (14:30)

Rome, Italy


Dear colleagues and friends,


1.            As part of our World Food Day celebrations, this Dialogue on Tea and Coffee will explore the cultural, social, economic and environmental importance of these two popular beverages.


2.            Tea and coffee have their origins far back in history.


3.            It may surprise you to know that, in earlier times, coffee and tea were often a source of disputes.


4.            Fortunately, today, drinking a cup of tea or coffee is very welcomed, and is often associated with happy social gatherings and events, and are enjoyed in every corner of the world!


5.            Our Dialogue today constitutes a renewed commitment to celebrate peace, unity and exchanges between civilizations and cultures.


6.            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.


7.            To end global hunger and poverty - which are both on the rise – we must start from our agri-food systems.


8.            The tea and coffee sectors are the perfect example of two sectors as labour intensive industries that provide jobs and income to some of the poorest rural areas in the world.


9.            Smallholder farmers and farming households produce 60 to 80 percent of the global tea and coffee outputs.


10.          Both industries contribute significantly to sustaining the lives and livelihoods of millions of labourers, including women and their families, and the youth.


11.          This makes the tea and coffee agri-sectors important contributors to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.


12.          The value of the world tea and coffee production is estimated at around 34 billion US Dollars.


13.          While their world trade is valued at about 28 billion US Dollars annually.


14.          They represent an important source of export revenues, particularly for many low-income countries that need foreign exchange to pay for their food imports, and to access a variety of goods and services from world markets.


15.          Yet, the tea and coffee sectors face a number of challenges.


16.          The climate crisis, sustainability, low levels of productivity, and the price-cost squeeze faced by actors along the value chain, are among the most pressing issues that require our attention.


17.          Both tea and coffee plants are subject to recurrent infestations by pests and diseases, which reduce yields and harvests. 


18.          For example, coffee rust or the brown blight disease of tea can result in significant losses in production and income.


19.          Smallholders need technical and financial support to invest in pest- and disease-resistant varieties.


20.          The production of tea and coffee often leads to significant use of natural resources, particularly soils and water.


21.          World prices of tea and coffee have been declining in real terms for decades.


22.          Levels and volatility of commodity prices have implications not only for investment decisions, but also for household incomes, food security and government revenues.


23.          For this reason, innovative risk management tools can limit the effects of volatile prices.


24.          In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic affected production and resulted in supply chain disruptions, which impacted exporting countries and their economies.


25.          For the tea and coffee sectors to remain viable and provide families with a sustained source of income, it is critical that concrete solutions be integrated on both the production and consumption sides, as well as throughout the value chains.


26.          FAO’s new Strategic Framework 2022-2031 has at its core the achievement of the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind - in support of the 2030 Agenda.


27.          Furthermore, technology, innovation, timely and scientific-based data, effective governance and strengthened human capital and institutions, can accelerate the transformation of the tea and coffee agri-food sectors to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable.


28.          This year’s World Food Day and this Dialogue are an opportunity to renew our commitment to enhancing the sustainability of the tea and coffee sectors, bringing them to the forefront of the policy action.


29.          The Chinese writer Lu Yu wrote “Tea tempers the spirits and harmonizes the mind”, and the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi said that “Coffee is comfort to the heart and spirit”.


30.          So whether you are a tea drinker or a coffee lover, let us remember how important the sustainable production and consumption of these two favourite agri-food products are for economic and healthy wellbeing, and for maintaining harmony with nature.


31.          I wish you enjoy Tea Break and Coffee Wake up!


32.          Thank you.