Below is a copy of the letter I electronically sent to the CEO of Starbucks, Jim Donald. You too can send this letter by visiting OxFam North America. There you can also learn more about the unfair trade market currently in place for coffee farmers and how simple action on your part can help Ethiopian farmers. For starters, buy and drink coffee that is committed to fair trade.
As a Starbucks customer, I'm concerned about your opposition to Ethiopia's right to own its coffee names. I am asking Starbucks to honor its commitment to farmers by signing an agreement with Ethiopia that recognizes the country's rights to the names of its coffees. If Starbucks and other companies sign such agreements, estimates suggest that Ethiopians could see up to $88 million of extra income a year.
Ethiopia ranks among the poorest countries in the world; more than 25 percent of its population lives on less than $1 per day. About 15 million people in Ethiopia depend on coffee to make a living, the majority of them growing their crop on small plots of about two and a half acres.
Meanwhile, coffee lovers pay up to $26 per pound for fine Ethiopian coffees because they're willing to pay for high quality and great taste. Ethiopian farmers, however, often earn just 5-10 percent of the retail value.
With this disparity in mind, the Ethiopian government launched a project to get legal ownership of its fine coffee names - Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Harar. By owning the names, Ethiopia will be able to occupy a stronger negotiating position with foreign buyers, capture a larger share of the market value associated with those names, and protect the reputations of its brand names. In a country with a per capita income of around $100 per year, that amount of money could have a profound impact on the lives of millions of Ethiopians.
As you know, Ethiopia approached Starbucks more than a year ago asking the company to lead by example and to discuss an agreement that would acknowledge Ethiopia's ownership of these names. So far, Starbucks has refused to sign the agreement, or even talk seriously about it with the Ethiopian government.
I want to see Starbucks do the right thing by the poor farmers who grow its coffee. I urge you to sign the licensing agreement and recognize Ethiopia's rightful ownership of its coffee names.