Starbucks today announced one of the coffee industry’s most ambitious producer-assistance programs to date by any corporate coffee organization, pledging to distribute one coffee tree per bag of packaged coffee sold in its stores through September 2016 to farms that have been affected by leaf rust. The program is launching with a disbursement of an additional 1,000 trees to farms in need.
“We have heard directly from farmers that helping them get new rust resistant trees will make the most impact. We are figuring out the way to do that while offering our customers an opportunity to get involved,” Starbucks Executive Vice President of Global Coffee Craig Russell said in an announcement today, adding that the company’s huge green coffee buying interest in some 30 countries “gives us the responsibility to make sure we invest in tangible ways that help to ensure farmer livelihoods and the stability of the entire supply for the industry.”
The assistance program, launching on National Coffee Day tomorrow, will result in the germination, planting and distribution of potentially millions coffee plants over the next year, and the company is launching the effort in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador with program assistance from Sustainable Management Services, a division of Ecom, one of the world’s largest coffee traders. The program is also part of Starbucks’ ongoing C.A.F.E. Practices initiative, and will be additionally supported by the company’s farmer support locations currently on the ground at six countries of origin (another agronomy support location is set to open next year in Mexico).
Starbucks said the plant donation and revitalization program follows a similar program led by Starbucks Mexico last year that resulted in the delivery of some 180,000 “rust resistant” plants to more than 60 farms in Mexico’s Chiapas state, where leaf rust has done some of its most destructive work over the past three years, in some cases wiping out entire farms. That program will result in an additional donation of some 360,000 new trees this year, Starbucks said.