July 31, 2008
CARACAS -- How about a cappuccino with that fill-up?
Citgo stations throughout the United States are now selling Venezuelan java along with their gasoline, providing consumers with a bit of fuel for themselves while offering an important overseas market to the South American nation's coffee producers.
The marketing scheme was devised by President Hugo Chávez as a means of diversifying his country's exports while helping more than 3,000 Venezuelan coffee farmers fetch higher prices for their harvests, Alejandro Granado, president of the Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum Corp., said Wednesday.
''This is a win-win initiative for everyone involved,'' Granado said during a telephone interview from Citgo's headquarters in Houston, Texas. ``It helps the small growers in Venezuela and provides U.S. consumers with coffee of extraordinary quality.''
Citgo, which is working with Pennsylvania-based Golden Valley Farms Commodity Group to market the ''Café Venezuela'' coffee brand, launched the program this week at more than 50 Citgo service stations in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Roughly 55 tons of coffee are being imported for the program's initial phase, Granado said. But Citgo plans to import as much as 220 tons a month as the program expands to as many as 2,000 of the company's 7,000 U.S. service stations.
Venezuela produces about 49,000 tons of coffee a year -- almost all of which is consumed domestically, according to the government. Roughly 3.8 are exported annually, according to the London-based International Coffee Organization.