Starbucks customers might find less

February 5, 2010

Starbucks customers might find less Costa Rican coffee in their mugs this year as the U.S. coffee giant cuts back purchasing of top quality beans grown in this Central American country, according to the Costa Rican National Coffee Institute (ICAFE).

“(Starbucks) has bought less coffee in Costa Rica this year,” said Ronald Peters, the Costa Rican National Coffee Institute’s (ICAFE) executive director, who speculates that the reduction could be a result of the Seattle, Washington-based company’s efforts to limit its inventory.

ICAFE could not divulge exact figures of how much Costa Rica-grown coffee is purchased annually by Starbucks, but officials confirmed that the company is one of Costa Rica’s largest buyers.

The coffee growers’ cooperative Coopedota is among the Tico producers that have noticed a dent. Coopedota sold 2,000 69-kilogram bags to Starbucks last year, according to the cooperative’s CEO, Roberto Mata. This year, Coopedota only sold 20 percent of that amount, he said, adding that the company has made up for the shortfall through sales to other U.S. buyers, as well as to buyers in Australia, Germany, Japan and some other Asian countries.

Recent reports out of Guatemala suggest that Starbucks has bought less coffee this year from that Central American country.

In a statement, Starbucks said about 75 percent of its high-quality Arabica coffee comes from Latin American countries, such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. However, it could not offer a specific breakdown for “competitive reasons.” The statement added that Starbucks’ purchases are based on demand, quality and existing inventory.

The cutback has not hurt Costa Rican growers, said Peters, who pointed out that exporters have managed to find buyers willing to pay a “satisfactory” price of $1.40 per pound in New York.

–Alex Leff

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