• The Green Coffee Association Inc. (GCA)


    The rules of the Green Coffee Association Inc. (GCA) set out comprehensive arbitration and appeal procedures. Over 95% of the coffee imported into the United States and Canada is sold under GCA contracts so these rules apply to a large part of world imports and are therefore of some considerable importance.

    The rules differ in some important aspects from those in Europe. For example, for technical disputes GCA sets no time limit for lodging the claim and instead sets a limit of one year from the date the issue first arose for the filing of the demand for technica1 arbitration hearings. ECF on the other hand sets a time limit for lodging the claim of 45 days from the date of discharge at port of destination (provided all documents were available to the buyers), or from the last day of the shipping period in the case of non-shipment. This is followed by a further 90 days for the filing of the demand for arbitration, counted from the date one party formally notifies the other that arbitration will be initiated.

    GCA permits the use of legal counsel whereas ECF requires prior approval for this. And while the GCA freely permits the use of witnesses and legal counsel it does not allow new evidence to be presented at an appeal, whereas the London Coffee Trade Federation's rules allow new evidence at any time. In the United Kingdom and Germany two arbitrators are selected by the claimant and defendant and they together select a third, the umpire. GCA Arbitrations are also heard by three arbitrators. For arbitrations held outside of New York buyer and seller shall each nominate an arbitrator who jointly appoint a third. For arbitrations held in New York the same procedure applies but the parties may also agree to have all three selected by the GCA Secretary, by lot, from the appropriate GCA arbitration panel [1].

    GCA members annually submit names of coffee professionals who they feel are qualified to settle quality and/or technical disputes. The Arbitration Committee reviews the experience of each individual, and determines for which list he or she is qualified. These lists form the pool of names from which the GCA Secretary then chooses arbitrators by lot. The Secretary must also be vigilant not to select arbitrators who may have a conflict of interest because of relationships with either party to a dispute.

    Once the arbitrators are selected, the arbitration is entirely under their control as stated in the GCA Rules of Arbitration:

    • The Association does administer and interpret the arbitration procedure and these Rules and it designates the arbitrators. It is, however, the arbitrators who conduct the hearings, determine and decide the issue, and they alone have the power and authority to make an award. Arbitrators shall be in complete charge of the arbitration. They shall conduct the same with the purpose of establishing equity and fair dealings in matters of trade and commerce.

    All GCA arbitrations are monitored by the legal staff of the InterContinental Exchange (ICE) to ensure they are run efficiently and that the results are both impartial and in full compliance with the laws of the land. Since 1999 the administration of the GCA has fallen under the auspices of the Exchange (now ICE but previously known as the New York Board of Trade or NYBOT).

    [1] In addition to  the Technical Panel the GCA has separate Quality Panels for Washed Arabica, Natural Arabica, Robusta, Specialty Coffee and Decaffeinated Coffee.

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