By Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times, March 9, 2011
TIMBÍO, Colombia — Like most of the small landowners in Colombia’s lush mountainous Cauca region, Luis Garzón, 80, and his family have thrived for decades by supplying shade-grown, rainforest-friendly Arabica coffee for top foreign brands like Nespresso and Green Mountain. A sign in the center of a nearby town proclaims, “The coffee of Cauca is No. 1!”
But in the last few years, coffee yields have plummeted here and in many of Latin America’s other premier coffee regions as a result of rising temperatures and more intense and unpredictable rains, phenomena that many scientists link partly to global warming.
Coffee plants require the right mix of temperature, rainfall and spells of dryness for beans to ripen properly and maintain their taste. Coffee pests thrive in the warmer, wetter weather.
Bean production at the Garzóns’ farm is therefore down 70 percent from five years ago, leaving the family little money for clothing for toddlers and “thinking twice” about sending older children to college, said Mr. Garzon’s 44-year-old son, Albeiro, interviewed in a yellow stucco house decorated with coffee posters and madonnas.
The shortage of high-end Arabica coffee beans is also being felt in New York supermarkets and Paris cafes, as customers blink at escalating prices. Purveyors fear that the Arabica coffee supply from Colombia may never rebound — that the world might, in effect, hit “peak coffee.”
In 2006, Colombia produced more than 12 million 132-pound bags of coffee, and set a goal of 17 million for 2014. Last year the yield was nine million bags.
Brands like Maxwell, Yuban and Folgers have increased the retail prices of many grinds by 25 percent or more since the middle of last year in light of tight supply and higher wholesale prices.
Profits of high-end coffee chains like Starbucks and Green Mountain have been eroded. Coffee futures of Arabica, the high-end bean that comes predominantly from Latin America, have risen more than 85 percent since last June, to $2.95 a pound, partly over concerns about supply, extreme weather and future quality, said George Kopp, an analyst at the International Futures Group in Chicago.
Yet as stockpiles of some of the best coffee beans shrink, global demand is soaring as the rising middle classes of emerging economies like Brazil, India and China develop the coffee habit.
In Canada, where Tim Horton's has the giant share of the coffee market, the prices continue at the same levels for now, remarkably. However, how long can it be before those of us who proudly claim "Timmy's" as our preferred drink, both drive-thru and drink-in, witness similar price hikes?
We know that Tim Horton's has private contracts with coffee producers in South America; yet, how long can those suppliers continue to provide the quality of bean in the quantity that the Canadian coffee market consumes each year, without a significant price increase?
This is one regular who will continue a "double-double" habit for as long as possible, and so far into the future as my limited imagination will permit.
For the rest of the world, if you want to bring a little Canada to your town or city, why not look up Tim Horton's on your internet browser and pay them a visit. It is the quality control, the rich coffee blend and the consistently high standards of both management and execution that have become the hallmark of the company and the experience of purchasing its products....and in your country, it will be a welcome treat as well as an introduction to our country. (Incidentally, I have no stock and no interest in the Tim Horton company. These are just personal opinions.) www.timhortons.com/