Starbucks to sell Rwandan Fairtrade coffee

Mon Jun 29, 2009 9:27am GMT

By Hereward Holland

KIGALI (Reuters) - U.S. coffee retail giant Starbucks will start selling a high grade variety of fairtrade-certified Rwandan coffee in Britain and Ireland next year, the company said over the weekend.

Starbucks said the move was part of an initiative to buy fairtrade beans across East Africa, aimed at improving the lives of farmers by encouraging more efficient coffee-growing practices and by promoting social development.

"I'm very proud to be able to announce that effective February in the UK, we will have a specific variety of the highest quality coffee possible from Rwanda that is Fairtrade certified," Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz told Reuters.

Starbucks has pledged to have all coffee sold in its 700 British and Irish outlets Fairtrade-certified, making it the largest purchaser of such coffee in the world.

Coffee represents Rwanda's biggest foreign-exchange export earner in an economy which has been rebuilt following the 1994 genocide of 800,000 people.

As Starbucks prepares to open a farmers' support centre in Kigali, Schultz said his company's own coffee-producing standards, in collaboration with Fairtrade practices, will improve crop yields and award farmers fairer prices.

"We want to integrate those practices in a way that will both benefit the farmer, benefit the consumer...," Schultz said.

The new agronomy office in Kigali is modelled on a farmer support centre in Costa Rica which improved yields 15-20 percent per hectare and cut the use of pesticides by 80 percent.   Continued...

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