Starbucks Coffee Company, the Ford Foundation, Oxfam America, and CEPCO (Oaxacan State Coffee Producers Network), announced today their collaboration in a unique pilot project to help small-scale Mexican coffee producers expand their access to the global marketplace and increase the availability of high quality Fair Trade certified coffee. This collaboration aims to enhance the livelihood and capabilities of small-scale coffee farmers and simultaneously improve the experience of coffee drinkers.

“Producing high quality coffee, consistently and in sufficient quantity to meet the requirements of the specialty coffee industry is key to the survival of small farmer organizations in Central America and Mexico,” said Orin Smith, president and CEO of Starbucks. “The Ford Foundation, Oxfam America and Starbucks share a common interest in working with farmers to ensure the sustainability of the industry.”

Oxfam America and CEPCO, Mexico’s largest cooperative of small-scale coffee producers, will implement the innovative partnership in the state of Oaxaca. Starbucks and the Ford Foundation have committed a total of $250,000 to the pilot for its first year. The comprehensive quality program will provide farmers with technical assistance, market information and product quality feedback. Ultimately, the project seeks to strengthen trading relationships between small-farmer fair trade cooperatives and coffee roasters in the U.S. specialty coffee industry.

With coffee prices at historic lows, farmers who produce high quality coffee are better positioned to earn higher prices and generate greater income for their families. Oxfam America has worked with small-farmer coffee cooperatives for more than 30 years, and believes that quality—the cup quality, the rewards in pricing for quality, and the perception of quality—is one of the major challenges to increasing the amount of coffee sold at fair trade prices. This partnership will support small-scale farmers’ efforts to redefine `quality coffee’ to mean coffee that is environmentally, socially and economically beneficial, in addition to being high quality.

“Oxfam America is committed to finding new and innovative ways to secure a greater market share for small-scale coffee farmers—CEPCO is incredibly well positioned to pioneer the implementation of this effort,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “We commend Starbucks and the Ford Foundation for their willingness to join us in this partnership that will help change the way these small farmers participate in the global specialty coffee market.”

“CEPCO’s coffee farmers are hardworking and they’re very proud of the coffee they produce,” explains Jaime Hernandez, General Manager of CEPCO. “In addition to feeling responsible for making a product that is of high quality, clean and tastes good, they know that coffee is their livelihood, part of their lives. We’re aiming to increase coffee consistency so we can always offer the same high quality coffee. We’ll be able to ask for the right price for our good work too—improving our business.”

“Certified Fair Trade coffee is a powerful mechanism for assuring that very small scale, often impoverished coffee producers receive the equivalent of `living wage’ prices for their coffee,” according to Michael Conroy, senior program officer at the Ford Foundation. “It provides assurance to socially aware consumers that their coffee was produced and traded under the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility. And it gives coffee roasters and retailers a guarantee that the coffee has not been produced under conditions that exploit either the coffee farmers or the environment.”

The overarching goals of the project are to: increase the supply of high quality Certified Fair Trade coffee for the U.S. specialty coffee market from small-farmer cooperatives; improve the skills of small-scale coffee farmers by providing resources and training to implement and standardize post-harvest quality improvement; provide information and support to enable farmers to earn premium prices for their coffee by producing a high quality product; and enable the farmers to disseminate their knowledge to other coffee cooperatives.

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