The global cost-of-living crunch has hit coffee drinkers hard, with many turning to cheaper brews to satisfy their caffeine cravings. However, a shortage of robusta beans is making it increasingly difficult to find a budget-friendly cup. Robusta beans are typically less expensive than their high-quality arabica counterparts because the tree is hardier and requires less care, making it easier to produce in large quantities. As a result, robusta is often used in instant coffee, espressos, and ground blends sold at supermarkets, which have experienced a comeback as cash-strapped consumers seek alternatives.
Unfortunately, key growers are finding it difficult to keep up with the surge in demand, with wholesale prices hitting the highest level in nearly 12 years last week. For consumers in Europe’s largest coffee market, Germany, the squeeze is having a noticeable effect on retail costs, with instant varieties going for nearly 20% more than a year ago, even as inflation for coffee beans has lost momentum. In Ireland, coffee prices rose 1.7% in April and are now almost 13% higher than a year earlier. US instant coffee price-growth also slowed less than the roasted version in April.
The odds of global robusta shortages easing any time soon look bleak. Vietnam, the world’s largest producer, probably collected its smallest harvest in four years after farmers focused on planting more profitable crops like avocados and durians to cope with booming fertilizer costs in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Brazil, the second-largest grower of the variety, has seen its crops hurt by drought, and there are also concerns that Indonesia’s output could suffer following heavy rains.
Despite those hurdles, more robusta beans were exported globally in the first six months of the current season compared to the last three years – just not fast enough to keep up with higher needs. Shipments between October and March were about 4% higher than the same period in 2021-22, according to the International Coffee Organization.
Judith Ganes, who runs a consultancy focused on commodities like coffee in New York, said, “There’s been so much of a demand shift away from higher-priced coffee that even the market isn’t being satisfied by higher robusta exports.” The shortage of robusta beans is causing a ripple effect throughout the coffee industry, with consumers and producers alike feeling the impact. As coffee prices continue to rise, it remains to be seen how the industry will adapt to this new reality.
In conclusion, the coffee industry is facing a significant challenge with the shortage of robusta beans. While many coffee lovers prefer the high-quality arabica beans sold in cafes, robusta is often used in instant coffee, espressos, and ground blends sold at supermarkets. The shortage is making it increasingly difficult to find a budget-friendly cup, with wholesale prices hitting the highest level in nearly 12 years. Despite efforts to increase exports, the odds of global robusta shortages easing any time soon look bleak. The industry must adapt to this new reality as coffee prices continue to rise.