Starbucks loan supports environmentally friendly coffee

SEATTLE, Washington, January 23, 2004 (ENS): Small scale coffee producers will have new access to affordable credit through a $2.5 million loan from Starbucks Coffee Company to Conservation International, both organizations announced Thursday.

Through its Verde Ventures fund, Conservation International (CI) will provide both pre-harvest and post-harvest loans and capital improvement financing to coffee producers. CI owns and manages the $6 million investment fund which strengthens small and medium-sized enterprises contributing to biodiversity conservation in CI's priority areas through debt and equity financing of $100,000 to $500,000.

Starbucks support is the largest loan commitment of its kind provided by a specialty coffee company, and it is intended to address some of the financial challenges facing coffee producers.

The loans will help the coffee producers avoid being victimized by middle men who may use their position of relative power over farmers to purchase the crop at a price below the market rate and sell to agricultural merchants at a huge profit. The middle man is in a particularly strong position if the farmer has debts to pay or needs a quick sale to buy food or medicine.

Most of the loans will be distributed to producers in Central and South America. To date, three loans totaling nearly $435,000 have been approved for participants of the Conservation CoffeeT program in Chiapas, Mexico, and a cooperative of organic coffee farmers in Sumatra.

"Starbucks values are reflected through its supply efforts and our involvement with Verde Ventures demonstrates our desire to address the pressing issues that coffee farmers face today," said Orin Smith, president and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company.

"We hope that farmers will utilize their loans for conservation coffee production that protects the Earth's natural resources, improves their livelihoods, and provides Starbucks with sustainably grown, high quality coffee."

This new agreement extends Starbucks and CI's five year partnership with an additional three year, $1.5 million grant to support CI's Conservation Coffee program to conserve the environment while providing economic opportunities for coffee farmers.

"By extending our partnership for another three years, Starbucks is demonstrating a real commitment to support CI's Conservation Coffee program and our recently formed Verde Ventures fund," said Peter Seligmann, chairman and CEO of CI. "This partnership is demonstrating that the coffee industry can produce high quality coffee while protecting the environment and providing economic opportunities for coffee farmers."

Since Starbucks and CI began working together in 1998, the collaboration has produced significant benefits for habitat conservation and farmer livelihoods in Mexico, Colombia and Peru.

In Starbucks coffee shops consumers can purchase the results of this collaboration as coffees called Organic Shade Grown Mexico, Decaf Shade Grown Mexico, Conservation Colombia and Starbucks Peru.

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