Coffee drinkers treated to more arabica as prices sink

Wed Oct 30, 2013 1:17pm EDT
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By Sarah McFarlane

LONDON (Reuters) - Coffee drinkers in Brazil, America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East are expected to down more arabica beans in their brew in the coming year as cheap prices attract additional demand for the higher spec product.

A surplus from top grower Brazil after two successive bumper crops helped drag arabica prices to a four-and-a-half-year low this week, which is likely to prompt roasters to increase the use of the bean in their blends.

But drinkers detecting more of arabica's distinctively sweeter, gentler notes in their cup will probably be saying more about the power of suggestion than their discernment, as roasters will only be tinkering with blend changes that consumers are unlikely to notice.

A Reuters poll of 10 international coffee traders and roasters showed that between 3 and 4 million 60-kilogramme (132 lb) bags of coffee demand - out of a market total of more than 140 million - is forecast to switch out of robusta beans into arabica in 2013/14.

Arabica beans are usually found in high quality brands and typically trade at a premium to the hardier, more caffeine-rich robusta beans, which are widely used in instant coffee.

Lately the price difference between some of the lower grade arabicas and robustas has been eroded, putting in reverse the trend from 2011/12, when roasters increased the proportion of robusta in their blends to the tune of around 5 million bags globally due to a historically high premium on arabicas.

"Clearly it's happening, although I don't think it's going to be as big as the switch we saw out of arabica in 2011/12," a European analyst said.

"The biggest swing is in Brazil."   Continued...

Customers line-up to use the world's first ever permanent bitcoin ATM unveiled at a coffee shop in Vancouver, British Columbia October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Clark