Starbucks supports coffee trademark plan

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Coffee Starbucks

Ethiopia's coffee industry, one of the largest in the world, was
this week closer to establishing a set of premium trademarks for
its beans after signing up coffeehouse giant Starbucks.

Starbucks said it would work with the Ethiopian government to develop trademarks for coffee varieties, including Harar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe. The coffee giant, which owns nearly 3,000 coffeehouses worldwide, has apparently had a re-think, as they reportedly opposed the trademark plan last year in favour of a regional certification system in Ethiopia. But the new agreement, which followed two days of negotiations between Starbucks and government officials, could signify a fresh step in the development of an added value coffee market. Ethiopia is one of the world's largest coffee producers, and relies on the product for around two thirds of its export revenue. Starbucks said it agreed in principle with the government over the licencing, distribution and marketing of the speciality coffee names. Further details were unavailable, but the two parties hope to finalise the finer points of the deal over the next few weeks. One of the key goals set forward by the International Coffee Organisation is improving value in coffee by building up a premium category in the market. Starbucks and Ethiopian government representatives said in a joint statement: "We realise our approach to trademarking and licensing these coffee brands that originate in and represent the best of Ethiopia's coffee heritage is a new approach that not only meets the needs of small Ethiopian fine coffee farmers and traders but also the coffee roasting and distributing companies and their customers." ​ Pressure has been growing on multinational coffee firms to play a greater role in supporting producers. A recently released documentary, entitled Black Gold​ and dubbed a coffee industry 'Supersize Me', depicts the poverty and uncertainty facing Ethiopian coffee​ producers. "These companies are part of the problem so they should be part of the solution,"​ Ethiopa's ambassador to the UK, Berhanu Kebede, told​ after viewing the film. "The source is drying up. We need a collective approach, where governments, companies and co-operatives sit down and hammer out a price system to find a solution."

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