From: Arthur Asiimwe, Reuters
Published December 1, 2007 07:46 AM

Starbucks plans 2nd farm support center in Rwanda

 

KIGALI (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp <SBUX.O> said on Saturday it would open a support centre for coffee farmers in Rwanda, the second in Africa after Ethiopia.

The world's biggest coffee chain said it would open the centre in Rwanda's capital Kigali in 2008.

"That support centre will go a long way in helping us increase our purchase of Rwandan coffee," Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz said in Kigali.

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On Wednesday, the firm announced it would open Africa's first support centre for farmers in 2008 in Ethiopia, the continent's largest coffee producer with an estimated annual production of 320,000 tonnes.

Schultz said Starbucks was looking to Africa for increased coffee supplies over the coming years.

"We are buying ten times more coffee today than we did a few years ago," he said.

The tiny central African country is an emerging grower of specialty coffee, having one of the world's top grades.

Rwandan coffee is mostly grown by small-scale farmers at high-altitude areas in rich volcanic soils.

The centre would be modelled on a program supporting Latin American farmers in Costa Rica, Shultz said after meeting with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame.

"This centre will help farmers elevate the quality of coffee, (making it) able to meet standards at the global market place which translate into more profits for them," he added.

Rwanda hopes to more than double coffee output to 32,000 tonnes in 2008 from 14,000 tonnes in 2007 mainly due to improved farm practices and a better crop cycle.

Starbucks, which operates some 13,000 coffee shops in 39 countries, bought beans from six African countries last year -- Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.

Earlier this year, Starbucks was accused by Ethiopia and aid agency Oxfam of attempting to block the African nation from obtaining trademarks for its best-known beans -- Sidamo and Harrar.

But in June, Starbucks and the Ethiopian government reached an agreement that allowed the coffee shop chain to use and promote the Harrar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe coffee designations in markets where trademarks exist, as well as where they don't.

(Editing by Wangui Kanina and Tony Austin)

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