Tuesday’s announcement by Swiss food and drinks company Nestlé that it will invest US $154 million in a coffee processing plant in Veracruz has been met with disdain by some coffee growers.
Representatives from several growers’ associations in the state rejected the company’s plan at a press conference yesterday, declaring that it won’t benefit small producers and will damage the environment.
The president of the Coatepec Regional Coffee Council said that Nestlé and other companies such as Starbucks have long exploited and manipulated local coffee producers and that the installation of a new plant would only perpetuate the situation.
“They make an announcement that for us is nothing new because Nestlé has always controlled coffee prices, they’ve exploited coffee growers for decades, not just Mexicans but at a worldwide level,” Cirilo Elothán Díaz said.
Members of the Plan de Ayala National Coordination (CNPA), a group which defends farmers’ rights, said that before the federal government reached an agreement with Nestlé it should have consulted with Mexico’s coffee producers.
President López Obrador met Tuesday with Nestlé México CEO Fausto Costa, who said that the new plant – with a capacity to process 20,000 tonnes of coffee beans every year – will make Mexico the company’s most important coffee-producing country.
The CNPA members also said that any government incentives should go directly to growers rather than the multinational company.
“We have to review what they’re doing, the agreements, and promote [the work of] the coffee producer, give [government] money to the producers,” CNPA representative Ramón Pino Méndez said.
“. . . The way in which Nestlé is going to come in won’t have any benefit at all. It’s a million-dollar investment but it’s for them because the producer isn’t going to get any benefit . . . If Nestlé really made a plan . . . that lifted coffee growers out of poverty we’d be with them but in advance we know that they . . . [will] exploit the coffee growers,” he added.
Pino also said that Nestlé has “a very bad reputation for wreaking havoc on the environment because it promotes cultivation of robusta coffee, which is a crop that grows without shade and therefore causes deforestation.”
Coffee growers are also angry that the federal government slashed funding for Mexico’s coffee sector by more than 50% in its 2019 budget, which was presented Saturday.
The economic package set aside 346 million pesos (US $17.4 million) for the implementation of the government’s Integrated Coffee Plan next year compared to 783 million pesos (US $39.4 million) this year.
Source: Milenio (sp)