Starbucks buys first farm

coffee cup

Coffee drinkers conflicted between fair trade coffee and those dangerously addicting Starbucks frappuccinos may soon ease their worried minds thanks to the Seattle-based company purchasing their first coffee farm in Costa Rica.

Despite the overall good attempt to fully switch to ethically farmed coffee, does this change mean Starbucks will have the opportunity to pull their business from locally owned farms and pull further into the Starbucks bubble?

According to the Bloomberg article recently released  the purchase is intended to enhance the franchise’s Grower-Support system and push the company’s use of ethically farmed coffee beans.

The 240-hectare (593-acre) holding will help support growers and their families, while allowing Starbucks to create new blends of coffee to sell, Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said in a statement. Seattle-based Starbucks has committed to buying only ethically sourced coffee by 2015.

Previously, the mega coffee chain invested resources to conducting Farmer Support Centers in Costa Rica, Rwanda, China and other locations where Starbucks purchased their beans from. These centers were designated to helping farmers lower the cost of  production, fight of harmful plant diseases, improve the quality of the coffee and increase premium coffees.

Starbucks has invested nearly $70 million throughout the past 40 years on increasing farmer support programs. Their first center in San Jose, Costa Rica opened in 2004.

According to a 2009 Seattle Times article on the benefits of Starbucks helping the farms they purchase from, the well being of farmers increased.

Vargas is one of the hundreds of farmers — large and small — in Costa Rica who have benefited from Starbucks’ arrival after an influx of cheap beans from Brazil and Vietnam saturated the market and sent prices tumbling in the late 1990s, creating a crisis for coffee growers.

As Starbucks’ presence grew in Costa Rica, Vargas’ relationship with the Seattle specialty coffee-shop chain tightened. He replaced 25 percent of his coffee plants with better breeds of arabica beans to keep up with Starbucks’ growing demand and quality standards.

This year, Vargas will sell 70 percent of the more than 7 million pounds of beans harvested on his farms to the company.

“Starbucks saved the coffee industry in Costa Rica,” Vargas says.

Will all the good Starbucks has done in trying to improve the quality and yielding profits of the farms simply be withdrawn as more farms are purchased by the coffee chain?

Probably not. Or at least, we do not know yet.

There will be, other advantages stemming from the Costa Rican farm purchase. According to a Starbucks press release, the international coffee shop intends to focus their farming adventure on learning more about how to manage changing climate and coffee farm production in addition to increased research on farming techniques.

“This investment, and the cumulative impact it will have when combined with programs we have put into place over the last forty years, will support the resiliency of coffee farmers and their families as well as the one million people that represent our collective coffee supply chain,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, president and ceo. “It also opens up an opportunity for Starbucks to innovate with proprietary coffee varietals that can support the development of future blends.”

Additionally, there have been many debates as to whether Starbucks in a fair trade company or not. One blog determined the fair trade questions had by consumers: Starbucks does sell a line of fair trade their coffee, but do not regularly brew certified fair trade or stock many variations.

However, while Starbucks limits their certified fair trade products, nearly 86 percent of their purchased products are Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices (C.A.F.E.) approved. While they receive a negative response from various fair trade bent organizations, the chain has taken steps to prove their interest in improving their sustainability, according to a Triple Pundit post.

How does this impact your views on the monopoly holding Starbucks chain?

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