Era of expensive coffee not to end soon amid dwindling stocks

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While world coffee reserves plunged to the lowest level in more than two decades and deliveries fall amid high shipping costs, dwindling amounts held in reserves will keep coffee prices near record levels.

As Bloomberg reported, stockpiles of high-end arabica beans, a favorite of artisan coffee shops and chains like Starbucks Corp., totaled 1.07 million bags or about 143 million pounds (64 million kilograms), according to data released Monday by ICE Futures U.S. exchange. That’s the lowest since February 2000.

Coffee reserves have been falling since September due to soaring shipping costs and unfavorable weather that clipped production in Brazil, the world’s largest grower and exporter.

Shrinking inventories are a concern because countries will tap reserves when they aren’t getting enough product from overseas. It’s a sign that demand is outstripping supplies and a condition for rising prices. Coffee prices have already been touching multiyear highs at a time when food inflation is gripping the globe.

“Low stocks at the exchange is one of the bullish factors adding to the coffee rally,” said Fernando Maximiliano, an analyst at StoneX in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The world’s biggest coffee producer, Brazil, last year saw a large portion of its coffee crop get damaged by frost, which sent coffee futures soaring to their highest point in nearly a decade.

The futures price for arabica coffee, one of the South American nation’s top commodity exports, jumped in June to just over $2 a pound, the then-highest level since 2014.

The commodity has rocketed by a blistering 60% between January and June.

Brazil suffered a historic drought earlier this year. That was followed by damaging frosts at key plantations in Minas Gerais – a southeastern inland state that produces 70% of the nation’s arabica beans.

The current rise in coffee prices is also part of a wider context of inflation in the cost of raw materials.

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