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Tess Vigeland: How about a steaming cup of Joe? Well, unfortunately the stale economy has ground Starbucks stock prices into little bits. Shares are off more than 50 percent from their frothy high of a year ago. The espresso king recently said it would slow its attempt to be on every street corner on the planet; it’s shutting down 600 stores. Now Colombian coffee growers are thinking, maybe it’s time to take advantage. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace’s Dan Grech reports.
Dan Grech: Colombia is famous for its mountain-grown coffee. But coffee production there has been slashed nearly in half by foreign competition from places like Vietnam. Colombia’s coffee growers are now in search of a better foothold in the U.S. The growers’ federation says it plans to buy a good chunk of Starbucks early next year.
Mark Inman: This would be the first time that an entire country would have made an effort like this.
That’s Mark Inman, president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Starbucks right now sells coffee from around the world. By owning a chunk of the company, Inman says Colombian growers may get preferential access to American coffee addicts.
Inman: This is the next step in the evolution of specialty coffee. I think you’ll see more of these moves happen as we move into the future.
University of Miami professor Bruce Bagley edited the book, “The Future of Coffee in Colombia.”
Bruce Bagley: They believe that they have the money. They have the quality coffee that they can sell through Starbucks. They see it as a major investment opportunity for Colombian coffee over the next several decades.
Starbucks has resisted past efforts to influence what coffee varieties it markets to customers. In a statement, the company said, “Starbucks values the relationships we have with coffee growers everywhere we buy coffee — including those in Colombia. We are continuously expanding our efforts to support these farmers and their communities as we focus on buying and serving the highest quality arabica coffee in the world.” Before this latest move, Colombia tried to compete head-on with Starbucks by opening stores named after its mustachioed spokesman. The effort fell flat; there are just 170 Juan Valdez stores worldwide, compared to Starbucks’ 16,000.
I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.
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