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Deal brews Chinese coffee exports direct to US in April

CHINA will export coffee directly to the United States in April under a deal signed between the ECUM Coffee Group and Yunnan Hogood Co Ltd.

In a statement on Saturday, Hogood said that it will export 240 tons of coffee beans monthly to Atlantic (USA) Inc, a member of Denmark-based ECUM Coffee Group.

Previously, Chinese coffee reached foreign consumers via international coffee suppliers such as Nescafe and Starbucks.

Jon H. Stefenson, director of marketing at the ECUM US subsidiary, said that packages of the company's coffee products will carry marks indicating the plantation origin as Yunnan.

Yunnan Hogood, which is based in Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, is one of the largest coffee suppliers in China. It has contracted 30,000 rural households to grow coffee. By the end of 2008, it had 5,333 hectares of contracted land.

Xiong Xiangru, chairman of the board of Hogood, said that the company aimed to gradually cut its dependence on supplying beans to foreign coffee brands. Instead, he wants to focus on promoting the company's own brand of products.

The world's top five coffee suppliers, including Nescafe, Maxim, Maxwell and Kraft have purchased beans from Yunnan Province, which accounts for 98 percent of China's total coffee output, according to Xiong, who is also president of the Yunnan Coffee Association.

Nescafe is the largest buyer of Yunnan coffee, buying about 8,000 tons last year. Starbucks offered last month to use Yunnan coffee beans in its global procurement.

"World consumers may have already tasted Yunnan coffee, before they recognize the coffee's plantation origin," said Xiong.

According to the provincial forestry bureau, Yunnan had 23,000 hectares of coffee plantations last year. Its total coffee output reached 28,000 tons.

Coffee planting only has a decade of history in China because the domestic market prefers tea.


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