Starbucks to partner with Ai Ni Group to bring Chinese-grown coffee to the world

Starbucks Coffee Company announced on 6 February that it will form a joint-venture company with Ai Ni Group, a coffee operator and agricultural company in Yunnan. The joint-venture company, which will be controlled by Starbucks, will purchase and export high-quality arabica Yunnan coffee beans, as well as operate dry mills in the province. John Culver, President, Starbucks China and Asia Pacific, and Liu Minghui, Founder and Chairman, Ai Ni Group, each representing their respective companies, attended the signing ceremony  in Kunming, Yunnan’s provincial capital. Vice Governor Gu Zhaoxi, Yunnan Provincial Government, witnessed the ceremony. “With its uniquely suitable climatic and soil conditions, Yunnan is one of the best regions in the world to grow coffee,” says Vice Governor Gu Zhaoxi. “With Starbucks leading coffee expertise, local market knowledge of our own Chinese enterprises, like Ai Ni Group, and the significant investments made by the provincial government, the full potential of Yunnan’s coffee industry will be gradually realised.”  “The formation of our joint-venture company with Ai Ni Group marks another significant milestone in Starbucks continued efforts to help develop Yunnan’s coffee industry,” says John Culver, president, Starbucks China and Asia Pacific. “The Starbucks China growth story is also about giving back to the local community. Through the Starbucks Yunnan Coffee Project and together with our partner Ai Ni Group, we are committed to help local farmers elevate the quality of the coffee in the region while bringing the best of Yunnan coffee to the rest of China and the world.” With the establishment of the joint venture, Starbucks aims to increase its coffee-sourcing activities in the Yunnan region for use in the company’s global blends, and build long term relationships with Yunnan’s coffee farmers, the company said in a press release. The joint-venture company will also adopt ‘best practice’ processing methods to ensure a consistent and reliable source of quality coffee for Starbucks. “Ai Ni Group is excited to partner with Starbucks to bring global best practices to the local coffee industry, and introduce Yunnan’s coffee to coffee lovers in China and beyond,” says Liu Minghui, Founder and Chairman, Ai Ni Group. “With Starbucks coffee knowledge and expertise, and our well established presence in Yunnan, we are confident the new joint-venture company will be a resounding success in helping to build Yunnan up as a globally recognized premier coffee growing region.” Beyond the joint venture, the press release reported that Starbucks Farmer Support Center in Pu’er City, which will provide agronomy consultation services and support to Yunnan’s coffee growers, is expected to be operational this year. In addition, the importation and local adaption tests for coffee seed varietals, conducted in collaboration with the Tropical and Subtropical Cash Crops Research Institute of the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Science (YAAS), are progressing on track and within expectations. Through these various initiatives, Starbucks said it aims to develop a complete value-chain in China – from coffee seed to the authentic Starbucks Experience in stores. The press release further reported that Starbucks collaboration with Yunnan province coffee farmers and suppliers reached a major milestone with the launch of Starbucks South of the Clouds Blend® in early 2009. With support from the provincial government, Starbucks worked closely with coffee farmers and suppliers in the Yunnan region to create Starbucks first coffee blend that featured high-quality arabica coffee beans from the region. Starbucks South of the Clouds Blend is now sold across numerous Starbucks locations across Asia and the United States.

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