Coffee roasters fear port logjams could disrupt supplies

By Fabiana Batista and Isis Almeida Time of article published Apr 8, 2020

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INTERNATIONAL - The world’s biggest roasters of coffee beans are looking to bring forward orders from top exporting nation Brazil as a hedge against coronavirus-related port disruptions.

Nestle SA, Jacobs Douwe Egberts and Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. are among buyers requesting to have some of the coffee beans they contracted shipped earlier, people with direct knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. 

For instance, June shipments would be sent in April and those for July in May, the people said.

While Brazilian ports are running normally, disruptions in places such as India and tight availability of containers in Uganda are prompting buyers to secure supplies quickly in case interruptions spread. Demand for accelerated coffee deliveries is widespread, with Spain and Italy the exceptions given ports there are already operating below capacity, one of the people said.

“Demand has been strong,” Nelson Salvaterra, a broker in Rio de Janeiro-based Coffee New Selection, said in a telephone interview. “I’ve never sold so much coffee in March.”


The type of delays that buyers fear are already on display in Uganda, where a container shortage and public transport ban are affecting shipping staff and delaying cargoes.

In India, the nation’s coffee board is still issuing export permits for April, but exporters willing to sell are “few and far between” as shipments for March are still delayed at the port, Volcafe, the coffee unit of commodities trader ED&F Man, said in a report Friday.

In other coffee-producing countries like Colombia and Costa Rica ports have been operating normally while a smaller-than-expected harvest in Honduras has made suppliers there tight, Salvaterra said.

While JDE has asked to advance some shipments, the company is mostly picking up additional supplies needed in the spot market, the people said. The company said that since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Europe, it “has experienced a significant increase in demand forecasts from its retail customers. To accommodate this increased volume we are actively sourcing the required ingredients.”

Keurig didn’t respond immediately to requests for comment. Nestle said “the supply of coffee beans remains within the deadlines agreed with the partners, and there is no change that impacts the supply in this regard.”

‘Hangover’ Coming?

The push for early shipments comes just weeks after some of the world’s top coffee traders warned of potential disruptions. Volcafe told clients that logistical holdups were expected to become “more widespread” throughout major producing countries and Sucafina SA encouraged clients to place orders as soon as possible to ensure they get beans on time.

For top coffee producer Brazil, the requests from roasters signal an increase in shipments through April.

Brazil’s green coffee exports in March probably were higher than the 2.4 million bags shipped in February, Carlos Alberto Fernandes Santana, director at Empresa Interagricola SA, a unit of Ecom Agroindustrial Corp. He expects a similarly unusual increase in April.

Coffee sales have also increased as consumers stockpile in their homes.

“The question is now what happens from May, which is when the coronavirus impact on real coffee demand may be clearer,” he said. “What we have seen is demand being brought forward rather than an increase. We may see some hangover for the coffee market between May and June.”

BLOOMBERG 

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