Starbucks brews up Yunnan flavor

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, November 15, 2010
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Li Zhongheng, the 73-year-old director of Pu'er City Experiment Demo Coffee Farm, talks with Howard Schultz, (second from right) about the features of local coffee beans on Saturday morning.

Starbucks Coffee Company plans to set up its first coffee bean farm in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province, according to a memorandum of understanding signed by the coffee giant, Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Science and the municipal government of Pu’er on Friday in Kunming.

Starbucks said that the decision aims to introduce high-quality coffee and increase the income of coffee farmers in Yunnan.

Executives of Starbucks, including its CEO Howard Schultz and Wang Jinlong, senior vice president and chairman of its greater China division, paid a visit to an experimental coffee farm in Pu’er on Saturday.

Schultz talked with Li Zhongheng, the director of the experimental farm, and asked about the features of local coffee and the living conditions of local coffee farmers.

Li, who is 73 years old, told Schultz that after retiring from the local government as an agriculture official 10 years ago, he began training local farmers in how to grow coffee and prevent disease in the plants.

Fan Hongyuan, deputy director of Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Science, said that 3,000 seedlings of the four kinds of Arabica coffee Starbucks introduced to the province are in good condition in his institution.

Yan Yalin, deputy mayor of Pu’er, said the Yunnan provincial government will invest 3 billion yuan ($452 million) in coffee farming and would like to see a multi-direction, deepened strategic cooperation with the coffee giant. When asked how the partnership differs with a similar agreement with Nestle, Yang said that the latter focuses on the demand and supply contract, while with Starbucks both sides hope to have large-scale cooperation with great flexibility.

Schultz added that the company’s third coffee farmers’ support center will be established in Yunnan, following centers in Costa Rica and Rwanda. “We would pay prime price for high-quality coffee beans but at the same time we would emphasis the transparency of the coffee trade between Starbucks and the farmers who cultivate the high-quality coffee beans,” Schultz said during a meeting with coffee farmers on Saturday afternoon. He added that the last thing he wants to see is too many intermediaries between Starbucks and its bean providers, and that he hopes the farmers are fairly paid and can have a better life.

Starbucks declined to further comment on the details of the cooperation but Wang did say that Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, can expect to see its first Starbucks outlet next year.

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