Compounding the troubling global price trends, the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE)’s latest market report delivered bad news for Kenyan coffee producers, who saw prices on their goods slump another 13 percent lower than what they fetched at auction last week, marking a new low for the year, according to Business Daily:
The price of coffee in the world market has been on the decline since last November when it hit a low of 113 cents a pound before sliding further this week to 98 cents per pound.
This comes at a time when Kenya is hosting the International Coffee Council in Nairobi, where stakeholders are discussing a range of issues, including the falling prices.
Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged the drop at that very International Coffee Council meeting, the first such meeting ever held in Kenya by the International Coffee Organization (ICO). Uhuru also announced a Kshs 3 billion (almost $30 million USD) government fund for advance payments on cherry to coffee farmers available at 3 percent annual interest, established in an effort to reverse the more than 60 percent decline in production over the past 20 years, according to a Capital Business report:
Another key intervention announced by President Kenyatta include an ambitious rehabilitation of 500 pulping factories in 31 coffee growing counties, the rehabilitation of planting materials and more investments in research and extension services.
President Kenyatta said the reforms he announced today are designed to boost production, reduce the cost of processing and milling as well as transaction costs at the auction market.
Also while at that gathering in Nairobi, ICO Executive Director Jose Sette linked up with Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan in New Delhi, India, to activate India’s pilot blockchain app, through which Indian coffee producers can transact directly with the buyers, according to a Hindu Business report:
“Growers will get the power to decide the price for their coffees,” said Coffee Board Chairman, Srivatsa Krishna. The initiative, besides helping fetch a premium, would also help address issues of traceability, transparency in pricing and better price discovery.
The app is currently being piloted with a limited number of growers, roasters, exporters and traders. The pilot will go on for 4-5 months.“If this pilot succeeds, we will cover all the growers,” Krishna said. There are close to 3.5 lakh growers in the country, who produce over 3 lakh tonnes of coffee annually.
The aggressive rate of acquisitions in coffee and related industries by JAB Holding Company in recent years could easily lead one to the impression that its owners, the German billionaire Reimann family, are out to conquer some aspect of the world. It’s therefore a tad extra horrifying that, according to Business Insider, the extent of the Reimann family’s WWII-era involvement with and benefit from the Nazis went deeper than previously known:
Bild, Germany’s largest newspaper, reported on Sunday that it had uncovered documents that revealed Albert Reimann Sr. and Albert Reimann Jr. were supporters of the Nazi party and that during World War II they used Russian civilians and French prisoners of war as forced laborers.
“There is nothing to gloss over. These crimes are disgusting,” Peter Harf, a representative for the family, told Bild.
Through Harf, the Reimann family said it planned to donate €10 million ($11.3 million) to a charity, which hasn’t been determined.
$11.3 million may sound like a sum that might amount to legitimate contrition, yet if you consider the net worth of the Reimann family — and some of the atrocities by which that wealth has been built — it may actually be way too little, way too late.
Wacky new research from the University of Toronto indicates that anything that’s even reminiscent of coffee or its imminent delivery into your body can act as a stimulant:
Across four separate studies and using a mix of participants from western and eastern cultures, they compared coffee- and tea-related cues. They found that participants exposed to coffee-related cues perceived time as shorter and thought in more concrete, precise terms.
“People who experience physiological arousal – again, in this case as the result of priming and not drinking coffee itself – see the world in more specific, detailed terms,” says Maglio, whose past research has looked at how uncertainty can affect our perception of time.
Baristas looking for work would do well to move to England. News & Star reported that with the country’s recent coffee boom, and with Brexit dissuading European applicants, there may come a shortage of skilled hands to pull the shots:
With the industry’s value rising 7.9 per cent in the last year to hit £10.1 billion in the UK, another 6,517 coffee shops are predicted to open in the next four years, according to research by the London Coffee Festival and Allegra World Coffee Portal.
This means the nation will need an additional 40,000 coffee professionals by 2023, on top of the 160,000 baristas currently working in the UK.
But industry leaders have warned Brexit has made it more difficult to attract applicants from EU countries, while British workers have not yet made up for the shortfall.
While coffee crops drenched in direct sun on monoculture farms are proving bad for the environment, brewed coffee left similarly exposed might actually have its benefits. Italian scientists have developed new coffee-based colloids that are better at absorbing sunlight in solar energy applications, according to a Phys.org report. Researchers experimented with various concentrations of Arabica coffee — prepared in a stovetop moka pot, of course — mixed with glycerol to lower its freezing point and copper sulphate to prevent mold:
In this way, Alberghini et al. showed that the proposed coffee-based colloids showed competitive optical and thermal properties for direct solar absorption. The experimental results agreed with the numerical models, validating these fluids to perform similarly to the traditional indirect absorption technique. The scientists found that during operation, the optimal dilution guaranteed the best energy storage capacity. The results will pave the way towards developing an unconventional family of biocompatible, environmentally sustainable and inexpensive colloids for solar applications. The scientists propose using the technique in additional solar-based applications such as:
Domestic water heating
Sustainable solar cooling.
Purdue University social scientist Jessica Eise along with researchers from the Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira traveled deep into Colombian coffeelands to study how farmers there learn about climate change, how they prefer to receive information on adaptation strategies, and what their firsthand experiences with the phenomenon have been. Eise recounted the study in piece published by Sierra this week:
All of this is great information to have. But, as Maria pointed out, we were missing the point. For many of these small-holder coffee farmers who hand-pick their beans on only several acres of land, climate change is compounding the most pressing problem of poverty, which interrupts production and decreases crop yields. For many of Colombia’s 300,000 coffee producers, climate change is just one more layer of insecurity layered over an already-insecure existence. Many of our interviewees echoed the same story. It isn’t that they aren’t aware of climate change—all 45 of our interviewees had heard the term. It isn’t that they don’t see the impacts—more than 95 percent could describe unusual climatic interruptions they hadn’t seen several decades ago. And it isn’t even that they don’t want to adapt—more than 80 percent indicated a desire to implement change. As one interviewee explained while discussing the disappearance of seasonal indicators, “It [climate change] is a very serious and harmful problem. We are accustomed to planting at certain times. What happens now is that people with money can still plant and go buy two or three water pumps to irrigate their crops. But the ones without money? They have to go to church and pray for rain so their plants aren’t damaged.”
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.