On December 18, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced government’s deal with the Swiss transnational food and beverage company Nestlé to build a 154 million USD worth coffee processing plant in Veracruz, Mexico. Following the announcement, small coffee farmers and several peasants’ organizations of Mexico rejected Nestlé’s plan claiming that it will not benefit the small producers and will harm the environment.
President AMLO after meeting with Fausto Costa, the CEO of Nestlé Mexico, announced that the plant would process some 20,000 tons of green coffee per year and would generate employment opportunities in the region. Costa, at the same time, said that the project would prove to be economically beneficial to not only those employed but to the entire southeast region of the country, where the majority of high quality Mexican coffee is grown. He also stressed that it would make Mexico the biggest coffee producer for Nestlé in the coming years.
Highlighting the exploitative practices of the multinational, Cirilo Elothan, the president of the Regional Council of Coffee in Coatepec, Mexico, said that “Nestlé has always controlled the prices of coffee and have exploited coffee producers not just in Mexico but at a global level, for decades”.
At a press conference held on December 19, members of the Plan of Ayala National Coordinator (CNPA), an organization that protects farmers’ rights, also rejected the plan and said that the government should have consulted the coffee farmers of Mexico before reaching to an agreement with Nestlé. They also said that any initiative taken by the government should benefit its people rather than any multinational company.
“We must examine what they’re doing, the agreements, and promote the local coffee producers. Give that money to producers and develop coffee production like it should be,” said Ramón Pino Méndez, a representative of the CNPA. “The way Nestlé will get in won’t benefit us at all. It is a million dollar investment, but for them, because the producer won’t get any benefit. If Nestlé really had made a development plan that would lift coffee producers out of poverty, we would be with them. But we know that they have helped exploit coffee producers”, he added.
Pino also said that Nestlé “promotes cultivation of Robusta coffee, which is a crop that grows without shade and therefore fosters deforestation”.
The project is another step taken by the government that will add to the agony of Mexico’s Coffee producers as earlier this month, the federal government presented the 2019 budget, in which it cut funding for Mexico’s coffee sector by more than 50%, i.e. from 783 million Mexican pesos (39.4 million USD) to 346 million (17.4 million USD).