US coffee chain Starbucks has set up a joint venture with a Chinese company to buy and process coffee beans in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, state media said on Monday. Seattle-based Starbucks and Ai Ni Group will purchase and export coffee that will help supply its stores around the world, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing Starbucks China President Wang Jinlong.
Financial details of the venture were not mentioned in the report. No one at Starbucks China was not immediately available to comment when contacted by AFP. Starbucks has more than 500 stores across mainland China and aims to open 1,000 more in the coming years as its seeks to cash in on the growing taste for coffee in a country of mainly tea drinkers. The company has previously estimated that China has a massive potential market of 200-250 million coffee drinkers.
In late 2010, Starbucks announced it was developing its own coffee farm in Yunnan in order to secure a supply of quality beans in the company’s second-most important market. Starbucks hopes to harvest the first crop of Arabica coffee by 2014.