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Fair-trade advocates appeal to Starbucks

070209_starbucks.gifWhen many students stop by Starbucks on the way to class to pick up their daily double shots, they may not realize the signs they see around the store for different types of coffees are the focus of a rift between the coffee giant and the farmers in developing countries who grow its coffee on the other side of the world. The Boston-based fair-trade advocacy group Oxfam America says Starbucks is not doing enough to help Ethiopian farmers trademark the names of Harrar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe – three coffee-growing areas in the African nation that produce specialty coffees sold by the company. If trademarked, the farmers would have the rights to independently sell their products. The organization has collected 90,000 signatures over the past few months for a petition calling for Starbucks to change its stance. The petition states getting the coffee trademarked would give much-needed buying power to the farmers, who make about $1 to $2 for every pound of coffee sold at commercial coffee chains for about $26. “Given that Starbucks put itself out there as an ethical company [that] cares about the environment and producers, we were surprised that they refused to sign a letter of intention to support this [trademarking] down the line,” said Oxfam International spokeswoman Laura Rusu. “At this point, Starbucks has basically come to an agreement that they’re not going to fight this, but it’s up in the air if they will support it,” Rusu said. In a company statement provided to The Daily Free Press, Starbucks states the government must decide to issue and determine trademarks, and it is not up to the global coffee chain to decide. “We will not oppose Ethiopia’s efforts to obtain the trademarks,” the statement said. “Starbucks does not decide whether or not to grant trademark registrations.” Image source: selected by Covalence | Country: Ethiopia | Company: Starbucks | Source: The Daily Free Press

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