In memory of Robério Silva

The coffee world was shocked to learn about the untimely loss of one of the industry’s most important leaders over the Christmas and New Year break. On 30 December, the Executive Director of the International Coffee Organization (ICO), Robério Silva, died at his home in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He was just 53 years old. Silva was well known throughout the coffee community for his dedication to improving cooperation between producer and consumer nations to achieve a more sustainable future. He had been Executive Director of the ICO since November 2011. During his tenure at the ICO, Silva increased the ICO’s membership by welcoming 11 new members and initiated discussions with several potential new member nations. With a total of 42 producer nations as members and 35 consumer nations, the membership of the ICO now accounts for 98 per cent of global coffee production and 83 per cent of global consumption. Silva’s work at the ICO saw him address climate change issues and oversee collaboration with public-private partnerships such as the IDH and the Global Coffee Platform to address issues of gender equality in the industry, facilitating the participation of the International Women‘s Coffee Alliance. Silva also introduced, in conjunction with the InterAfrican Coffee Organisation and the African Development Bank, the Africa Coffee Facility, an instrument to provide funding for coffee sector development projects in Africa. He initiated the review of the strategic goals of the organisation to meet the current challenges facing the coffee industry. Silva’s initiatives also generated cost savings that enabled members’ contributions to remain unchanged for several years, and organised three major global coffee conferences. Hailing from Brazil, Silva came to the ICO after 25 years working in the commodities field. After graduating in economics from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, Silva concentrated on the field of commodities, particularly coffee. He worked in both the public and private sectors: in Brazil’s Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade, and the Office of the President before becoming Secretary-General of the Association of Coffee Producing Countries (ACPC) in 1994. Thereafter, he worked for Brazil’s Chamber of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Development, Industry and International Trade. Finally, Silva was Director of the Coffee Department at the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply in Brasilia before taking up his position as Executive Director of the ICO. Silva played an integral role in negotiating the agreement that created the Association of Coffee Producing Countries (ACPC). Ratified by 14 countries that represented 85 per cent of coffee production, he went on to lead the organisation as Secretary General from 1994 to 2002. The group was self-dissolved in 2002, when it conceded it was unable to work out mechanisms to control coffee prices at a time when they dropped to their lowest in 30 years. When he assumed the role of Executive Director in 2011, Silva said that he would focus on re-energising the ICO into a more dynamic organisation. In an interview with GCR in 2013, Silva said that some of the ICO’s most important work lay in ensuring there was a sustainable balance between the cost of coffee production and the price paid for the commodity on the market. “It is important because coffee provides the livelihoods of millions of farmers around the world,” he told GCR. “They depend on coffee for their survival, and this is what makes it so important.” GCR

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