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UK faces coffee ‘shortage’ due to coronavirus supply issues in South America

BRITAIN could face of a coffee shortage as the coronavirus crisis puts a strain on major supply chains around the world.

PUBLISHED: 23:19, Thu, Apr 23, 2020 | UPDATED: 23:20, Thu, Apr 23, 2020

Demand for coffee has surged in the past month after firms and consumers began panic-buying during the COVID-19 lockdown. Coffee farmers in South America have been particularly struggling to source enough Arabica beans to meet the unprecedented amount of orders from the West.

There are also concerns restrictions on movement will cause labour shortages on farms across Brazil, Columbia and Peru.

The continent is responsible for the supply of two-thirds of the world’s supply of coffee and around half of UK imports.

Economic woes in South and Latin America had already affected the sourcing of coffee after rock-bottom prices forced many farmers across Honduras and Columbia to abandon their harvest.


Britain could face a shortage of coffee (Image: GETTY)

The Financial Times reports at the start of February, even before the coronavirus swept across the world, Arabica stocks fell by 11 percent – a two year low.

Exports of coffee in Brazil also are at risk of drying up for next year’s yield after sales have already exceeded the annual target.

José Marcos Magalhães, head of Brazil’s second-largest coffee co-operative Minasul, had expected to ship 400,000 bags (each containing 60kg of beans) for the whole of 2020.

However as international demand continues to grow, he now expects to double that target.


Demand for coffee has surged in recent months (Image: GETTY)

Last year the firm exported 360,000 bags, now it is forecast to ship 800,000.

He said: “We are having very high demand, mainly from Europe, consumption has increased a lot in supermarkets in the USA, and they want to replenish stocks.”

Mr Magalhães has revealed he has already been forced to turn down buyers as he cannot cope with the orders.



Coffee producers in Brazil are having to turn down orders (Image: GETTY)

He said: “The stock is low and we were unable to fulfil all requests.

“As a result I am having to nitpick orders, but that is because I don’t have enough coffee.”

More than 2,000 miles away in Colombia Roberto Vélez, chief executive of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, has reported the same problem.

He said: “There is a shortage of washed Arabica coffee.”

Production of coffee is usually busiest during the hot summer months and many farms are reliant on additional workers from abroad.

Outside of South America the UK also imports coffee beans from Vietnam, Indonesia and Ethiopia.

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