ICO Coffee Market Report August 2015 - Volatility Returns To The Coffee Market As Prices Stay Low

Sept. 11, 2015

Daily coffee prices hit their lowest level in 19 months during August, as commodity markets worldwide were negatively affected by currency movements and economic news out of China, according to the International Coffee Organization’s (ICO) Coffee Market Report. Further uncertainty could be provoked by reports that this year’s El Niño event could be one of the strongest on record, potentially disrupting the timing and volume of rainfall in several producing countries. Coffee exports in July 2015 came to 9.6 million bags, 3.6% lower than last year, with total exports for the first ten months of coffee year 2014/15 (October to July) 2.8% lower on 92.9 million bags. Finally, the Brazilian government agency Conab have reported that private stocks in Brazil dropped by 849,000 during crop year 2014/15 to 14.4 million bags at the end of March 2015.

The daily price of the ICO composite indicator rallied briefly at the beginning of August, to reach a 12-week high of 128.16 US cents/lb. However, further currency devaluations in the Brazilian real, Colombian peso and Vietnamese dong, combined with broader declines in commodities, subsequently drove prices down to a low of 114.21 cents. The monthly average for August settled on 121.21 cents, 1.2% higher than July but still the second-lowest level since January 2014. 

In terms of the group indicators, all three Arabica groups averaged higher monthly levels, with Colombian Milds, Other Milds and Brazilian Naturals up by 1.7%, 1.6% and 2.9% respectively. Robustas, on the other hand, dropped by 1.5% to 85.78 cents, their lowest monthly value in 21 months. The arbitrage between Arabica and Robusta therefore widened slightly, with price volatility also increasing significantly over the course of August.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the current El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean is the strongest since 1997/98, and is potentially one of the strongest events since 1950. El Niño refers to the occasional dysfunction of the weather patterns centred in the equatorial Pacific regions, and is caused by the abnormal warming of coastal waters off Peru and Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the irregular cooling of the coastal waters in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a significant impact on rainfall patterns worldwide, which is already being felt in the severe drought conditions affecting Australia, heavy rainfall in eastern Africa and flooding in South America. The phenomenon is likely to continue at least until the end of this year. While it is too early to evaluate its impact in coffee exporting countries, we should continue to expect human and ecological consequences caused by climate fluctuations, as well as an impact on infrastructure in a number of producing regions.

Over the last year, the currencies of several exporting countries, most notably Brazil and Colombia, have depreciated significantly against the US dollar, as can be seen in graph 5. Since September 2014, the Brazilian real and Colombian peso have both depreciated by over 50%, reflecting their domestic economic performance as well as global macroeconomic trends. The Indonesian rupiah has also dropped by nearly 20%, and even the Vietnamese dong (which is typically pegged against the US dollar within a relatively narrow band), has been devalued by around 6% over the course of the last year.

The effect of these devaluations is to increase the remuneration in local currency of coffee sold in US dollars, thereby giving an incentive to farmers and exporters to release more coffee to the international market, even as the world price of coffee falls.

This can be seen mostly clearly in Brazil’s export performance over the last year or so. While production in crop year 2014/15 (April to March) fell to a three-year low of 45.3 million bags according to Conab figures, exports hit a record level of 36.9 million bags, with domestic consumption of around 21 million bags. This was facilitated by the use of stocks which had been accumulated over the two previous seasons, and encouraged by the significant depreciation in the exchange rate. As can be seen in graph 6, monthly export volumes for the last three months are slightly lower compared to last year (crop year 2014/15), but remain above their levels of 2012/13 and 2013/14. 

Furthermore, Conab, have released their survey of private stocks for the end of crop year 2014/15 (31st March 2015) which were down by 849,000 bags (5.6%) to 14.4 million bags. It is likely that these volumes have been further eroded in recent months to fuel exports. To conclude, coffee prices continue to be buffeted by macroeconomic trends, with little fundamental news to support the market. While exports have slowed slightly in the last six months, the world market remains sufficiently supplied for the time being. However, with a strong El Niño event expected over the next few months, future production prospects could be uncertain.


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International Coffee Organization

April 1, 2014
The International Coffee Organization was established in 1963 when the first International Coffee Agreement (ICA) entered into force in 1962 for a period of five years, and it...