Welcome to another edition of the Coffee News Roundup, this week brought to you by heat-induced fatigue.
While my frail Scottish body bakes in 90+ degree weather, why not enjoy the latest roundup of news from around the coffee industry.
I’m off to make myself an iced pour-over.
As the Pourover makes its way slowly over to Substack, please subscribe!
First Ethiopia Cup of Excellence Auction Generates Record High $1.34 Million - via Daily Coffee News
After moving the competition from Addis Ababa to Portland, Oregon, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first ever Ethiopia Cup of Excellence auction surpassed all expectations, beating the previous record set by El Salvador in 2011.
A record high $1.34 million was spent by roasters from across the world on 28 lots, with an average price of $28 per pound (also a record).
People really like Ethiopian coffee, apparently.
. . .
(The Pourover, providing incisive analysis since 2016.)
This story is interesting for the fact that a global pandemic clearly hasn’t put a dampener on coffee companies paying slightly staggering sums for specific coffees.
It’s also interesting in the wider context of the coffee industry and the impact of COVID-19 on producers in particular, something we will explore in the next couple of stories.
ICO Survey of Coffee-Exporting Countries Shows Pressing Concerns - via Daily Coffee News
“Pressing concerns” might be an understatement.
This report, which surveyed what Daily Coffee News calls “coffee exporting country representatives”, lays bare the fear and trepidation that this pandemic is causing among coffee producers, who represent some of the most precarious stakeholders in the coffee supply chain.
Carried out by the International Coffee Organization (ICO—we’ll be encountering them again later on), the survey has some interesting (and worrying) results.
Although almost two-thirds of respondents reported their harvest currently being unaffected by COVID-19, the ICO writes that “impacts on coffee production might become more visible in the second half of the year, when more countries enter the harvesting season.”
The main worry, for the people who responded, is in the requirements of social distancing on farms, and in actually recruiting farmworkers due to border shutdowns affecting migrant labor.
70% of respondents foresaw “decreased income from coffee and other activities, despite rising costs for production, for food and for healthcare,” according to the article.
This drop in income could have numerous residual effects, such as a reduction in sustainability and climate resilience investments, as well as potential for increasing uses of child labor.
It is worth mentioning here that those surveyed weren’t farmers per se, but rather “official representatives to the ICO or organizations in Member countries reflecting the sentiment of exporting countries towards the impact of covid19 at the time of the survey.” So make of that what you will.
Oh hey, and speaking of the ICO. . .
Guatemala Says It Will Leave The International Coffee Organization - via Reuters
“The ICO... has not helped to adequately address the international pricing crisis faced by producer countries.”
So says a statement by the Guatemalan government, after it announced that it would leave the trade group, which is based in London and “compiles data from its 49 member countries and hosts industry forums,” according to Reuters.
In response, the ICO said that “it was not a market regulator, and urged Guatemala to stay in the organization and work with other members.”
Will they reunite? Time will tell, I suppose, but the next story gives an indication that, well, maybe not.
Central American coffee farmers face big challenge as market shrinks - via Reuters
This article, which features an interview with the head of the ICO, Jose Sette, is a follow-up/expansion on the piece above about Guatemala leaving the organization.
“We are very sad about this news. We have seen members leave and come back in the past, and our door is always open for Guatemala,” Sette said.
He continued: “I understand the frustration of farmers in the region. They are facing immense challenges right now, but we have to recognize there are no simple solutions.”
Honduras is also considering leaving the trade group, according to this report.
I don’t want to lay into the ICO too much, even though two key coffee producing countries leaving or considering leaving doesn’t reflect well on it as an organization.
By its own admission the ICO doesn’t really do very much these days, with its export quota scheme abandoned and with it any direct involvement in trade deals or pricing.
Instead, as Sette tells it, the organization promotes “transparency in purchases made by large coffee roasters as a means of promoting sustainable coffee, as well as nudging consumers to support a healthy industry with their purchases.”
Which, as we’ll see below, doesn’t seem to mean very much.
The Week In Coffee Greenwashing
Poor ICO. This has been a bit of a week for them, hasn’t it?
First Guatemala leaves the organization; then Honduras threatens to. Now, some blogger is yelling about them on the internet.
And yell about them I shall.
I couldn’t pass by this article in Global Coffee Report about the ICO’s new scheme, the Coffee Public-Private Taskforce that met virtually to discuss “action-orientated ways of addressing key issues in the coffee sector such as persistently low coffee prices and the impact of COVID-19.”
Taking part were representatives from major coffee companies such as Lavazza, Illy, Jacob Douwe Egberts, Starbucks, and, of course, Nestlé.
According to the article, the Taskforce (capital T) will “help members jointly improve the sustainability of the coffee industry, to find consensus, to understand differences and to find common ground.”
Meaningless drivel. Just platitudinous rubbish.
You know what the ICO could be doing right now?
PRESSURE THOSE COMPANIES TO PAY MORE FOR COFFEE.
The names listed up there are multi-million, if not -billion, dollar companies. They could easily—easily—double what their baseline price is for coffee.
Screw it, just double the C price even. It’s not enough, but it would at least be something.
Is Coffee Good For You?
Nothing new this week. So yes.