When Starbucks hit the 10-million coffee trees milestone in its One Tree for Every Bag Commitment today, the groundwork was laid to not only revitalize coffee farms, but also uplift surrounding communities in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Starbucks announced the One Tree for Every Bag Commitment last fall, pledging to plant a coffee tree for every bag of coffee purchased at any U.S. store. The trees will be distributed to C.A.F.E. Practices-verified farms that have felt the impact of coffee rust, a plant fungus that’s damaged millions of trees around the world and affected farmers’ incomes dramatically.
According to ECOM Agroindustrial Corp. – a global commodity merchant and sustainable supply-chain management company – nearly 800 jobs will be generated in Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. Many of them will be seasonal and long-term opportunities at the three Guatemalan, four El Salvadoran and three Mexican nurseries producing most of the 11 million rust-resistant seedlings that will be delivered this year. The 11 million total includes an initial Starbucks donation of 1 million coffee trees.
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Teddy Esteve, Chief Executive Officer for ECOM, emphasized the need for workers to grow along with the seedlings.
“Job creation is number one at the nursery level, but I cannot stress enough what happens on the logistics side,” Esteve said. “We are creating hundreds of third-party jobs.”
Delivery of the trees will begin toward the end of May and will be completed in August. That phase will prompt a flurry of activity beyond the nurseries.
“A large truck can hold 8,000 seedlings,” said Colman Cuff, managing director of Starbucks Coffee Trading Company, which is responsible for the company’s global green coffee purchasing. “So you look at areas that are getting more than two million trees and you start to realize that’s 250-plus trucks that need to come and go in a short time.”
The trees will be arriving in regions that have suffered setbacks in recent years related to coffee rust, the loss of young people leaving their communities in pursuit of income, and the technical limitations of many farmers, said Alain Poncelet, deputy chief executive officer of Coffee and Cocoa at ECOM.
“The farmers were basically keeping old trees that their grandparents had planted,” Poncelet said. “By putting the right seedlings and the right amount of work and investment in the lands they have, they can actually make much more money over the long term. That’s not so easily done, because those people need every single dollar out of their farms that they can get.”
“The big opportunity here is for people to realize that these are high-yielding trees that are producing really good quality coffee and will end up getting a very good price, because it’s obvious Starbucks will be behind that coffee in the future,” said Esteve.
ECOM estimates the One Tree for Every Bag Commitment will generate 340 seasonal and long-term jobs in Guatemala, 253 in Mexico and 185 in El Salvador.
“The impact will be much bigger than the millions of trees that are being delivered,” he added. “They will set an example. Hopefully it’s not going to stop here and we can continue to support the growing regions with more trees in the future.”