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An update on COVID-19 from Simon Wakefield.

To coin a phrase, we are living in “interesting times” – though thankfully not as mad as written by Terry Pratchett. The rules have changed along with expectations and deliverability. That is the great thing about us humans, the ability to adapt and adapt quickly. The great thing about our coffee industry is that we are working together, to get through this pandemic together and to come out the other end together.

Contracts are being honoured although some a little later than anticipated, but under the circumstances that is a great result. This also ensures the credibility with our suppliers’ pre-financiers, particularly the Fairtrade contracts – if we were to cancel, pre-finance next year would be that much more difficult for them. We did cancel 2 contracts at buyer request, for a coffee of specific requirement that could not be sold elsewhere, but this could have happened in “usual times” as well.

Over and above new business, we have made new contracts with farmers even if we do not need the coffee yet. Why ? Well, we have long term relationships that need to be supported even in tough times – it’s like a marriage. It confirms our commitment to the relationship meaning they do not need to sell into the open market to secure pre-finance, but also offers mental support, which is important too.

Warehousing space very quickly became a big problem, so we spread our arrivals around different locations to ease the pressure and manage the risk. We also carry more stock in our Vilnius and Dublin locations than before and this situation is likely to remain. Our warehouse partners have been great at managing these irregular movements and ensuring we did not end up with coffee sat on the quay. Thank you.

A slow up in retail and in some instances a total stop to the flow of coffee to consumers caused a slight hic-cup in payments being received, but roasters soon recovered once Government support and local initiatives took hold. Across the board, we have seen greater attention paid to cash flow, which long-term is really constructive for sustainable business. Our suppliers have been paid promptly and in the usual manner – we felt this was incredibly important to support our farmer partners.

We have seen a move to on-line, home delivery, click and collect, take-aways. Absolutely anything to get coffee to the consumer! The entrepreneurship and determination demonstrated by roasters has been incredible – some have actually increased their business where others have found a route to market they had not experienced before. Our respect and admiration goes out to you. There is concern being expressed about a potential “2nd wave” and we have already seen localised shutdown in Leicester and some independent retailers – clearly the impact will be harder on some than others.

On behalf of Team DRWakefield, I would like to thank all of our stakeholders for your communication and collaboration during these challenging times – as said on more than one occasion, “together we are stronger” and I feel that we, our whole supply chain, can be very proud of how we have managed and continue to manage during this pandemic.

Take care, stay safe, Simon and Team DRW