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Coffee Growers in Costa Rica Unable to Meet Starbucks’ Appetite

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Despite early rains and an optimistic forecast for the next two coffee harvests in Costa Rica, Tico growers are concerned that demand will outpace supply and may not be able to meet orders from retail coffee shop Goliath Starbucks.

In an article by Sergio Arce of national newspaper La Nacion, the president of the Coffee Institute of Costa Rica (iCafe) explained that Starbucks is not the only buyer affected. Green Mountain, a staunch rival of Starbucks in the household coffee arena, is another prominent buyer of high-quality beans from Costa Rica. The German coffee brand Hochland Kaffee is another fan of our coffees, as are Nespresso and Peet’s Coffee and Tea from the United States.

Starbucks is the most active buyer of CoopeDota’s coffee, one of Costa Rica’s premier growers and roasters. Twenty percent of CoopeDota’s production is snapped up by Starbucks as soon as it is offered, according to Director Roberto Mata. Ronald Peters, president of iCafe, stated to La Nacion that Starbucks purchases ten percent of the national coffee production.

Importing Coffee Could be the Answer

A previous article in The Costa Rica Star explained how Tico growers recently traveled to Brazil and looked at their crops with the intention to import coffee from the South American giant in order to meet demand.

Two representatives from Starbucks in Costa Rica spoke to La Nacion about their purchasing practices. Carlos Mario Rodriguez, director of agricultural affairs for the American retail chain in Costa Rica, explained that the purchasing patterns of the company around the world vary according to production and demand. Barbara Schmidt, director of Coffee and Farm Equity (CAFE) Practices indicated that purchasing is not solely based on low prices, but also on best production practices.

It is not clear whether Starbucks would purchase coffee from roasters in Costa Rica knowing that it has been imported from other countries. What is clear, however, is that Starbucks sells our coffee at premium prices. A pack of three 12 ounce bags (about a kilogram) of Starbucks-brand Tarrazu medium roast goes for about $30 on Amazon -when supplies are available.

Opening Soon

The first Starbucks in Costa Rica will open later this month at the upscale Avenida Escazu. The company has been busy setting up the coffee shop and hiring employees.

The company recently score a courtroom victory in a United States federal appeals court related to its labor practices. The court sided with Starbucks with regard to its policy prohibiting employees from wearing pro-labor union pins. According to a recent article on MSNBC, none of the company’s 7,000 stores in the United States are unionized.

Starbucks has not commented on whether Tico employees will be allowed membership in labor unions or employee solidarity associations (document download from Hacienda.go.cr).

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