coffee beans

Fresh fears of a global coffee shortage have arisen amid warnings there will be a severe shortfall in robusta beans despite an abundant arabica harvest.

Global forecasts for coffee production in 2016/17 are up 2% year on year to 155.7 million bags, mainly due to a record arabica crop in Brazil [Mintec]. Arabica production is expected to reach 94.1 million bags, up 9% year on year. But worldwide robusta production is forecast to fall 8% to 61.6 million bags because of decline in Brazil, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Robusta prices have risen gradually since March as the result of severely dry conditions caused by El Niño to production in Vietnam and Indonesia. While the weather front has weakened and is expected to end by July, its impact is likely to hamper production for several more months, warns Mintec analyst Avneet Deol.

“Furthermore, there is a strong risk of the El Niño giving way to La Niña, which causes heavy rainfall and cold weather in Asia,” she added.

Robusta production in Brazil is also predicted to fall due to dry weather, unrelated to El Niño, which affected Espirito Santo, the country’s largest robusta growing region.

Arabica prices have also soared since March, but the 20% rise was mainly due to the strengthening Brazilian real, which has risen 14% against the US dollar since the start of the year. Although there were concerns over the impact of rainfall in Brazil on the harvest, weather conditions have improved, boosting optimism about production.

The price gap between robusta and arabica narrowed between March and June, which might have prompted coffee makers to use more arabica beans in their blends. However, it has now widened again, says Deos. Either way, coffee drinkers shouldn’t be worried about a drastic change to their favourite brand’s flavour.

“Coffee makers adjust their blends gradually, so the taste of their coffee is not altered completely,” says Deol.