Welcome to the March 2022 edition of DRWakefield’s Monthly Origin Focus.
International news has continued to be dominated by reports of the Russian-Ukrainian invasion. Our thoughts remain with everyone affected. The repercussions of the conflict are continuing to be felt across the world. Coffee producers are particularly feeling the impact of the rising prices of oil and fertiliser, which are pushing up the cost of coffee production.
Here at DRWakefield in London, we have just enjoyed the London Coffee Festival, the first one without any Covid restrictions! Everyone was in great spirits despite it being one of the coldest festivals we have experienced, with it even snowing on the first day – a rare occurrence in London!
At the start of March, Sterling was looking fairly strong, sitting at about 1 GBP to 1.34 USD. However, on 14 March it dropped to 1 GBP to 1.30 USD. But corrected slightly, ending the month at 1 GBP to 1.31 USD.
In this report, we will delve deeper into Kenya, Vietnam and Nicaragua.
Coffee Origin Focus
Kenyan coffee prices have soared this year, mainly due to the struggles being faced in many Latin American countries which have pushed up the Coffee Market. Coffee farmers are enjoying higher prices for lower grades of their coffee sold at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. These prices have risen due to high volumes of the higher than expected quality of these beans available at the auction.
Over the last few years, the government of Kenya has, with the support of its development partners, initiated new programs to revamp the coffee industry in Kenya. Increasing yields, modernisation of processing plants, and streamlining of governance in cooperatives remain crucial to the recovery of Kenya’s key export commodity sector.
As part of this initiative, last month, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya launched the Coffee Farm Input Subsidy Program in Kiambu County to enable coffee farmers enjoy a 40 per cent discount on farm inputs, such as fertilisers. The program is to be implemented by the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union; it will see both smallholder coffee farmers who are part of cooperatives and small estate coffee farmers issued with a card that they will use to buy fertiliser or pesticides from accredited suppliers. The program will significantly bring down the cost of producing coffee for farmers, allowing them to invest better in their farms and increase the quality and volume of their yields.
Rainfall has been well distributed throughout the year in the coffee-growing regions of the country. Annual precipitation levels have not sunk below 1000 milimetres, this heavy rain combined with the deep well-drained and fertile soil provide ideal conditions for coffee production.
According to the General Department of Vietnam Customs, during the first half of March, Vietnam’s coffee exports reached 81,500 MT, a 6% decrease from the same period last year. However, it is not all bad news, as the total exports from the start of 2022 to 15 March are 22% higher than the same period last year.
Conditions remained mostly dry in the central highlands of Vietnam in the first half of the month. In Dak Lak and Gia Lai, farmers have started the second round of irrigation. It is estimated that about 93% of the 2022 crop has flowered, with 85% in Dak Lak, and almost complete in other provinces.
The coffee market has been quiet after the Tet holidays (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), together with the spike in Covid cases due to the spread of the Omicron variant throughout the country. As a result, farmers are selling their crop very slowly because there is no selling pressure. Even when the price had recovered from the sharp drop at the end of February, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, not much trading took place. Farmers in the Central Highlands, Vietnam’s largest coffee-growing area, are selling their coffee at an average of 38,900-41,800 dong ($1.70-$1.83) per kg.
Most shipping companies have suspended delivery services to Russia. Russia-based clients have struggled to make payments and send documents and invoices via banks due to the sanctions imposed upon them. Like the rest of the world, Vietnam is experiencing a sharp increase in oil and fertiliser costs. Fertiliser, in particular, is a worry in Vietnam. The pandemic has already pushed prices to 2-2.5% higher than pre-pandemic prices, and prices continue to rise as supply is being squeezed, causing concern amongst producers.
Nicaragua has seen significantly more rain in the coffee-producing regions throughout the month than it did in March 2021, an extra 100 millimeters of rain. This means that flowering is likely to happen earlier than usual, so the coffee cherries will also mature earlier and the harvest will be brought forward. Current estimates expect this year’s harvest to begin in November. The Jinotega area, where our partners at Finca Las Nubes are located, has already experienced flowering in March. They report that their coffee trees are looking healthy and set for a good crop.
However, exports remain lower than usual. The shortage of containers is still having an impact, causing delays in shipping and shipments getting rolled. As a result, export volumes are down 15%.
The impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has also been felt in Nicaragua. They, too, are facing increased fuel and fertiliser prices, as Russia is one of the biggest exporters of oil and potash, which is used to make fertiliser. The price of fertiliser has already risen 200% since the conflict began and is expected to continue rising. These rising prices have meant the cost of producing coffee has grown greatly, raising concerns with producers, exporters and the Nicaraguan coffee union.