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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights



May 10, 2010

Oxfam welcomed Tuesday’s meeting between Starbucks CEO Jim Donald and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, but expressed frustration that the international coffee giant still refuses to recognize Ethiopia’s ownership of its coffee names.

‘It is significant that Starbucks finally sat down to discuss the trademarks issue directly with Ethiopia’s prime minister, said Seth Petchers, Oxfam International’s Make Trade Fair campaign coffee lead. ‘The company must now follow up by recognizing Ethiopia’s right to own the names of its coffees, so that farmers get a fairer share of the value of their crop.”

For over a year, Ethiopia has sought a dialogue with Starbucks about trademark rights for Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe coffees. Despite its much-publicized commitment to farming communities, however, Starbucks has continually rejected Ethiopia’s requests to resolve the trademark issue. Absent that step, no agreement was reached at Tuesday’s meeting.

Ethiopia’s farmers produce some of the finest and most sought after coffees in the world—including coffees that have been sold under Starbucks’ Black Apron Exclusives line for up to US$26 a pound. But the farmers receive only 5 to 10 percent of the retail price, in a country where millions live on just a dollar a day.

‘Our coffees are some of the best in the world and though they often sell for two and three times the price of other coffees, we are getting only a tiny fraction, said Tadesse Meskela, of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, featured in the new documentary film Black Gold.’

Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada, said:

‘Canada has recognized Ethiopia’s ownership of its coffee names, as have several European countries and Japan. The experts concur that Ethiopia’s trademark and licensing project is a viable solution to the poverty that plagues Ethiopia’s farmers.

Over 85,000 people have written Starbucks since Oxfam called on the public to speak up last month. ‘We will continue pressing Starbucks to come to a mutually beneficial solution, Fox added. ‘This issue has the potential to make a world of difference for millions of poor people.

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