KUNMING - Starbucks will continue its expansion in the Chinese mainland market, planning to have 1,500 cafes in operation by 2015, said an official from the company.
Wang Jinlong, chairman of the board of Starbucks Greater China, revealed the plan Wednesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Starbucks cafe in Kunming, capital city of southwest China's Yunnan Province.
Kunming is the 39th city on the Chinese mainland to have a Starbucks branch. Wang said Starbucks has high expectations for the booming Chinese market, as it is the company's largest market outside of the US.
Starbucks opened its first branch on the Chinese mainland in Beijing in 1999. There are now 450 Starbucks cafes on the Chinese mainland.
The Kunming branch also shows that Starbucks has the confidence to initiate a new round of market expansion in some of China's smaller cities, Wang said.
Wang said that entering Yunnan is a significant move for the company. Starbucks has cooperated with the province to boost the region's coffee industry, he said.
Producing 98 percent of China's total coffee output, Yunnan has over 33,000 hectares of farmland devoted to growing coffee.
Starbucks has been one of Yunnan's biggest customers this year, purchasing nearly 20 times as more coffee from the province than it did in 2007.
"The amount of coffee beans that Starbucks purchases from Yunnan will increase greatly," said Wang. "Yunnan carries a strategic significance for Starbucks to provide quality coffee."
Starbucks set up its first coffee bean farm in the Yunnan city of Pu'er after signing a memorandum of understanding with the local government in November 2010.
"The cooperation project is progressing well. We will begin to see the first batch of coffee beans in around three years," said Wang.
Additionally, Starbucks plans to open its first Asia Farmer Support Center in Yunnan to introduce Starbucks experts directly to coffee farmers to help them implement more responsible growing practices and improve the quality and size of their harvests.
The Yunnan provincial government also plans to invest 3 billion yuan ($461 million) to increase the coffee bean output to 200,000 tonnes in 2020, said government officials.