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Starbucks helps fight coffee rust in Latin America

In countries across Latin America, coffee rust is a plague, making it harder for farmers to produce high-quality coffee. In the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, coffee rust forced Rolando Lopez to downsize his farm, which is at 50-70 percent of its typical productivity.

“We didn’t know that it was going to be this destructive,” Lopez said. “Within a year, we saw the effect of the coffee rust in the plants. It was very hard for coffee producers.”

Starbucks is helping farmers like Lopez tackle coffee rust, a fungus that has damaged millions of coffee trees around the world, through the company’s One Tree for Every Bag commitment.

Launched in September 2015, the program helps donate one rust-resistant coffee tree for each bag of packaged coffee purchased in U.S. Starbucks stores.

In the first 10 months of the One Tree for Every Bag commitment, Starbucks customers have purchased 15 million bags of coffee to support farming communities in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Lopez, a third-generation coffee farmer, is grateful for the rust-resistant trees that are helping him recover his coffee yields. “This is all I know how to do – produce coffee,” he said. “This tree initiative is a relief because we know we have security for our coffee production.”

One Tree for Every Bag was inspired by the Todos Sembramos Café program, which means “We All Grow Coffee,” in more than 500 stores in Mexico. The efforts help ensure farmer livelihoods and the stability of the coffee supply for the industry for generations to come.

Starbucks is working with Conservation International (CI) to ensure coffee trees are successfully distributed, planted and thriving.

The distribution of each coffee tree will be supported by Starbucks Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, developed over a decade ago with CI to safeguard responsible purchasing practices and economic, social and environmental standards, globally.

These sourcing standards are then augmented by Starbucks Farmer Support Centers that provide on-the-ground agronomy services.

The One Tree for Every Bag commitment not only lays the groundwork to revitalize coffee farms, but also uplifts surrounding communities in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador.

According to ECOM Agroindustrial Corp. – a global commodity merchant and sustainable supply-chain management company – nearly 800 jobs will be generated in Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico.

Many of them will be seasonal and long-term opportunities at the three Guatemalan, four El Salvadoran and three Mexican nurseries producing most of the 15 million rust-resistant seedlings that will be delivered this year.

The total includes an initial Starbucks donation of 1 million coffee trees.