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A disastrous drop in coffee prices caused by overproduction is damaging vital research as well as impoverishing more than 100 million industry workers, according to Fernando E. Vega and colleagues from the US Department of Agriculture.

In a letter to this week's Nature they call for an international coffee research development programme to be set up, similar to those already functioning for banana and plantain. This would co-ordinate priorities and prevent duplication of work.

The value of the coffee crop to producing countries has halved during the past decade. Coffee is the world's biggest traded commodity, apart from oil. But this year, out of the 117 million 60kg-bags produced, 9 million remained unsold.

Link to letter in Nature 

Reference: Nature 425, 343 (2003)
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