Starbucks meets African farmers halfway

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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

SCOTT JAGOW: Starbucks is reaching out to coffee farmers in Ethiopia. Our correspondent Stephen Beard is working on this story. Stephen, what did Starbucks announce today?

STEPHEN BEARD: Starbucks has unveiled a whole package of measures which they say is going to help East African farmers and, in particular, Ethiopian farmers. First of all they're going to double the amount of coffee they buy from the region. They're going to increase to $35 million the amount of money they're going to spend buying East African coffee over the next two years. In addition, they're going to provide affordable credit, they're setting up a farmers support center and they're going to help humanitarian organizations promoting things like adult literacy in the region.

JAGOW: I'm having a little bit of déjà vu here, Stephen. It seems that we talked about this a couple weeks ago in terms of groups putting pressure on Starbucks to change its policies concerning coffee in East Africa, isn't that right?

BEARD: That's right. Starbucks has come under a lot of pressure. There's been that documentary you remember called Black Gold about the plight of East African coffee producers. There have been street demonstrations outside Starbucks coffee shops here in the U.K. Farmers in Ethiopia say they get only a $1.60 a pound for their coffee. That's roughly 1 percent of the price that coffee shop customers are paying.

JAGOW: But this is mostly about buying more coffee as opposed to the price.

BEARD: That's right. I mean, what Starbucks is saying is we do care about these farmers, that's why we're putting this effort into humanitarian organizations and setting up this farmer support group. We're also trying to help Ethiopian farmers to improve the quality of the beans they grow. That, they say, is the best way for them to get a better price.

JAGOW: OK Stephen, thank you.

BEARD: OK Scott.

JAGOW: That's our correspondent Stephen Beard in London.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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