By Marcelo Teixeira
NEW YORK, July 15 (Reuters) - Food processor J.M. Smucker SJM.N has started to sell a coffee brand that allows consumers to have information about where it was produced and, if they wish, contribute financially to programs in the grower's community, the company said on Wednesday.
Smucker, one of the largest coffee processors in North America, will sell through retailers in the United States and Canada packages of its 1850 Coffee brand containing QR codes that will lead consumers to a website with information about the coffee origin in Colombia.
Once in the website, called Thank My Farmer, consumers would have the option to donate to programs that assist those communities, such as systems to provide clean water, school supplies or coffee seedlings for small farmers.
The company said the system, developed with IBM and Farmer Connect, is an answer to consumers' desire to have more transparency in products and their worries over farmers' sustainability.
Initially, it is not possible for consumers to donate directly to growers, something that could happen in the future, Smucker said.
The launch comes at a time when many coffee growers around the world are finding it increasingly difficult to make money, as reference prices hover around historical lows.KCc2
Many coffee farmers have abandoned or sold their land in Central America, for example, after being unable to make money.
Fernando Morales de La Cruz, founder of Cafe For Change, an organization seeking to raise awareness regarding low pay for growers, says the initiative will not help much.
He says the only way large roasters such as Smucker, Starbucks and Nestle could improve the situation is to raise the price paid to farmers.
(Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira Editing by Nick Zieminski)
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