Recap #5 | Recent Developments in Coffee - March 18, 2020
This week, we're taking a break from the 2019 World of Coffee lecture series to share Recap's fifth episode. The Recap podcast offers a brief overview of recent coffee developments every two weeks from the Specialty Coffee Association.
Now a pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak continues to have a devastating impact on the coffee industry. Around the world, coffee shops, roaster/retailers, and factories have been greatly impacted by government-mandated closures to mitigate the virus’ spread. As the situation continues to rapidly evolve, we are still waiting to understand the full impact of the pandemic on global supply chains and we watch with great concern as the virus is now appearing in coffee-growing countries. Many businesses are being forced to close their doors or operate in a limited capacity, highlighting the precarious position of service labor across our industry. This is an unprecedented situation for all of us, but we are heartened by the way communities are coming together to support each other and to make their voices heard. Over the coming weeks, the SCA will work to aggregate and amplify these community responses to this crisis.
Significantly attended trade shows and specialty coffee community events have taken steps to postpone their events. The SCA recently announced the postponement of World of Coffee Warsaw, including the Warsaw World Coffee Championships, and the Melbourne World Coffee Championships in Australia. Re:co Symposium and the Specialty Coffee Expo, scheduled to take place in Portland, Oregon, US this April, are still pending postponement. Contradictory directions from the US federal and Oregon state government have left the SCA and the business partners who make these events possible every year in legal limbo. For a full statement, the most recent update, resources, and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit sca.coffee/covid19. The SCA will continue to update this page and its FAQ as the situation evolves and we receive new questions.
Amidst our collective efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus’ and its impact on communities around the world, companies and organizations are continuing important work on the sustainability of the coffee supply chain. On March 13, World Coffee Research released a study confirming that Arabica coffee--the main species that millions of people around the world consume daily--is the least genetically diverse major crop species in the world. The study confirms that Coffea arabica likely originated from a single plant between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, providing clear, definitive evidence that Arabica’s genetic diversity is even lower than previously thought. The results also confirm that recent approaches in coffee breeding programs worldwide, which look to related species in the Coffea family, are the best way to introduce the genetic diversity required to meet the challenges ahead.
The government of Colombia will invest nearly $64 million in a newly-launched coffee stabilization fund. The fund will be used to fill the gap between the C market price and the cost of production by allowing growers to lock in a predetermined market price up to a year in advance of their harvest. According to Colombia’s Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla, this will allow farmers to focus on growing the best coffee possible without worrying about price fluctuations.
Folgers, the leading brand of regular ground coffee in the US, has adopted blockchain technology into its 1850 Coffee brand. Packaged with a QR code, consumers will be able to research and track the coffee in each canister by scanning the code into the “Thank My Farmer” app, a collaboration between tech-giant IBM and start-up Farmer Connect. The app is not the first to offer solutions to connect coffee producers with others in the supply chain: iFinca and Just Coffee Co. also use blockchain technology to help consumers trace their coffee’s journey. Folger’s adoption of Farmer Connect is a striking example of large industry players adopting a level of traceability previously broadly associated with the smaller scale of specialty coffee.
If you want to dive deeper into anything you heard today, check out the links in the description of this episode. Recap will be back in two weeks’ time. Thanks for listening.