Supporting Coffee Farmers in Central America

Here at Starbucks, our success especially for the future is directly linked to the success of the farmers who grow our coffee. With globally low coffee prices and coffee tree disease affecting many smallholder coffee farmers in Central America, we remain relentless in our efforts to support their livelihoods, we are constantly evaluating how we can improve that support, and we encourage the rest of the coffee industry to do the same.

Our approach in this region, as it is globally, is comprehensive and holistic. We pay premiums for our coffee for high-quality standards and participation in our ethical and sustainable sourcing program.  We also provide coffee farmers with a range of resources, so that their livelihoods and quality of life improve alongside their coffee yields and coffee quality.

At times, this support includes short-term relief funding, such as an Emergency Farmer Relief Fund of up to $20 million for smallholder farmers in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua for the 2018-2019 harvest season, which is being disbursed now, and volcano relief efforts for Guatemala last year.

Longer term, the following resources are available to farmers – both those who sell to Starbucks and those who do not.

  • Farmer Support Centers that offer technical assistance and other resources. Looking at Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico as examples, more than 7,000 farmers participated last year in trainings with our farmer support teams.
  • A commitment to provide 100 million healthy new coffee trees to farmers whose trees are diseased or aging. We have distributed more than 31 million trees in El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico since 2015, with more than 21,000 farmers receiving trees for nearly 9,000 hectares.
  • Agronomy research and development that is available to all. In El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, 16 nurseries are producing the marsellesa tree variety, which provides farmers genetic material that is more tolerant to drought and less susceptible to disease, such as coffee leaf rust. Our farmer support teams provide education and answer questions about growing the new trees successfully.
  • Support for farmers in meeting and improving on Starbucks ethical and sustainable sourcing standards, called C.A.F.E. Practices. Being part of this program enables farmers to continually improve their practices, yields and crop quality, which can help equip them for more long-term success.
  • A commitment of $50 million for farmer loans to ensure the “missing middle” and smallholder farmers have access to capital. Much of this is capital is at work in Central America. With Guatemala as an example, we are currently supporting $8.7 million in low-interest loans for farmers through Root Capital and the Fair Trade Access Fund for trade finance, tree replanting, agronomic and production support. These loans are benefiting more than 11,000 farmers, the majority of whom are smallholders, and about one-third are women.

The story of the Pacheco family in the Jalapa region of Guatemala is one example of Starbucks ongoing support. When a rust outbreak affected their coffee trees, they received 6,000 new, disease-resilient trees as part of Starbucks One Bag for Every Tree initiative (now the 100 Million Trees program).