Martiniano Moreno had spent more than 30 years growing coffee on a farm located in the hillsides near the region of La Frailesca in Chiapas, Mexico. It’s a part of the country well known for producing some of the world’s finest Arabica coffee beans.
Moreno’s decades-long experience hadn’t prepared him for the aftermath of rust, or roya in Spanish, a plant fungus that has been devastating coffee harvests across Central America in recent years as a result of challenging growing conditions.
“The rust was destroying our yields, cutting production by 40-60%,” said Moreno, who supports a family of eight. “It was very difficult to watch. Our entire community relies on coffee. It's who we are. It’s how we take care of our families; our children.”
A recent visit to a nursery near the village of Jaltenango, however, gave him new hope.
Moreno was invited to receive 3,000 new rust resistant coffee plants Starbucks Mexico donated to Chiapas coffee farmers through a program called TODOS SEMBRAMOS CAFÉ (We All Grow Coffee).
He was one of 60 coffee farmers at the nursery when Starbucks handed out the plants. In total, Starbucks Mexico distributed over 180,000 plants that day.
Recognizing the impact that rust was having on farmers' crops, Starbucks launched TODOS SEMBRAMOS CAFÉ last summer to direct 100% of the profits from whole-bean Shade Grown Mexico Coffee sold in Starbucks® stores in Mexico from June through December 2014 to purchase rust resistant coffee plants for Chiapas coffee growers who need assistance renewing their plots. The program, run in collaboration with Agroindustrias Unidas de México (AMSA), Anacafé (National Association of Coffee) and the Alsea Foundation, is part of Starbucks ongoing, comprehensive commitment to working with others to support coffee farmers around the world.
For Starbucks, this marks an important milestone in a long journey with coffee farmers in Chiapas. While the company has been sourcing coffee from the region for its U.S. and international stores since 2002, it has also been offering Shade Grown Mexico Coffee, grown under the shade of trees in the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in Chiapas, as its daily “coffee of the day” in all stores in Mexico since 2008. Starbucks serves more than 10 million cups of coffee from Chiapas annually in the country.
Starbucks Mexico donated three types of coffee plants to farmers in Chiapas. The varietals are known for generating better yields, higher cup quality, and improved rust resistance – Costa Rica 95, Guacamaya (Macaw) and Marseillas. Farmers have found that by increasing the density of plants per hectare, the coffee trees are revitalized and that increases the crop’s disease resistance, quality and yield.
While the first phase of TODOS SEMBRAMOS CAFÉ has concluded, Starbucks Mexico remains committed to extending the program. In collaboration with agronomists, the company plans to develop a tailored program with each coffee producer and perform periodic visits to assist with plant nutrition, soil analyses, PH reviews and identify possible presence of pests or diseases.
“We want to work closely with these producers to help provide recommendations on maintenance and care for these crops which are expected to begin producing their first coffee beans within 16 months," said Yedid Gurgua Zambrano, an agronomist at the nursery in Jaltenango, Chiapas.
With this initiative, Starbucks is continuing a long-standing tradition of supporting farmers who grow high-quality Arabica coffee beans. Over the past forty years, the company has invested more than $70 million globally in collaborative farmer programs and activities including C.A.F.E. Practices, farmer support centers, farmer loans and forest carbon projects. Most recently, Starbucks purchased a farm in Costa Rica that will act as a global agronomy center, testing and developing solutions that can significantly impact environmental and social conditions of farming communities.
The research and best practices from this work will be open-sourced in order to inform growing principles around the world.
About Starbucks Mexico
Starbucks Mexico is owned and operated by Alsea, the leading restaurant operator in Latin America and Spain with globally recognized brands in the quick service, coffee shop and casual dining segments. Since entering the market with Alsea in 2002, Starbucks Mexico has grown to 443 stores in 52 cities throughout the country. Today, with stores around the globe, Starbucks Coffee Company is the premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world. Visit Starbucks Mexico online at http://www.starbucks.com.mx/