We’re all used to Starbucks popping up in the headlines, usually with news of new acquisitions, loyalty programs and general world domination. Last week they added a coffee farm in Costa Rica to their assets. In what may seem like numbers driven vertical expansion, the coffee giant has some interesting plans that might end up benefitting even the little guys.
While many coffee companies have moved towards Fair Trade certified coffees and organizations like Transfair and Rainforest Alliance help to broker relationships between farmers and end users, it’s never that clear who the money ends up with and how it is being used. We have a direct trade relationship with a farm in Ethiopia which means our transaction only involves the buyer and the seller. Usually coffee transactions involve several brokers, exporters, importers and distributors. Starbucks being able to supply their own beans eliminates trading and should create a higher income for the farmers.
The farm is located on the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica which will act as a fruitful (get it?) laboratory for the botanists and scientists Starbucks will undoubtably be employing. Their plot covers a wide range of elevations which is perfect for testing growing techniques and new hybrid coffees. They promise that no genetically modified practices will be used, but we’ll let you decide if you want to believe that.
The last noble pursuit of Farmbucks will be to try and eliminate coffee rust. Known as Hemileia vastatrix by those who spent a decade in post-secondary education, it is causing serious issues through Central and South American coffee farms. In Mexico they are estimating that they will yield only 50% of their normal amount this year due to the fungus. These farms don’t have the infrastructure or support to conduct proper experiments.