Starbucks partnering for coffee farming loan program

by Eric Schroeder
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ATLANTA — Starbucks, the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations and TransFair U.S.A. are working together on a small-scale loan program that is expected to grow at least $20 million by 2015. The Small Farmer Sustainability Initiative is designed to build on existing Starbucks efforts and help foster improved livelihoods, environmental stewardship and economic sustainability in the coffee industry.

"Our business relies on increasing the production and sustainability of small-scale coffee farmers around the world," said Dub Hay, senior vice-president of coffee and tea for Starbucks. "Currently 85% of Starbucks coffee is grown on family farms with less than 12 hectares of land, so increasing their access to affordable loans and technical support will help them not only survive the current global economic crisis, but it will also help them emerge as stronger business partners for the future."

The S.F.S.I. is a three-year pilot program that will leverage the expertise and resources each group has in coffee-growing regions. It will be supported by the Starbucks Farmer Support Centers in Latin America and East Africa to facilitate outreach in Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific. Farmers will have access to the $12.5 million Starbucks currently has invested in farmer loan programs through social investment organizations, and Starbucks has an additional goal to increase funding for farmer loans to those organizations to $20 million by 2015.

"Starbucks’ increased commitment to small-scale coffee farmers shows tremendous leadership," said Paul Rice, president and chief executive officer of TransFair U.S.A. "Our evolving partnership will have a far-reaching positive impact in coffee-growing communities throughout the world. The results of this program will help send kids to school, bring clean water to farming communities and enable struggling farmers to put food of the table. Working together, Starbucks and Fair Trade Certified empower consumers to make ethical decisions about the coffee they drink and to support the farmers that produce it."

The goal is for small-scale farmers to have greater access to capacity-building resources in agronomy, technical support and capital investment. Starbucks will also provide support and feedback through analysis of green coffee samples from Fair Trade Certified cooperatives to assist in improving quality. This in turn allows small-scale farms to focus on improving quality and expanding the supply of coffee to Starbucks and other specialty coffee purchasers at higher prices.

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