Robusta at All-Time High

In recent years, there has been a remarkable increase in Robusta coffee prices. With the developments in early January 2024, we reached the highest price for Robusta in 29 years. This trend is not only due to increasing demand but also a number of complex factors currently shaping the coffee market.

Graph 1: Monthly Robusta prices in USD/kg from May 1994 to April 2024(International Coffee Organization).
Available at: https://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=robusta-coffee&months=360

Why are Robusta Prices Rising?

The prices for Robusta, as well as for Arabica, are determined by the classic principle of supply and demand. The increasing popularity of Robusta in specialty coffee blends and the resulting higher demand are obvious. But the reasons for the record-high prices are more complex.

Climate-related supply shortages and strong demand fuel the shortage on the supply side. Additionally, transportation issues related to the crisis in the Red Sea are affecting global trade routes, especially from East Asia to Europe.

The Role of Vietnam and Global Challenges

Vietnam, as the world’s largest Robusta producer, plays a crucial role and has been hit by a prolonged period of drought and heat.

Brazil, the second-largest Robusta producer, is also currently suffering from ongoing drought. Since these two countries together accounted for around two-thirds of global Robusta production in 2023, simultaneous climate events in both countries inevitably lead to a critical shortage. Looking to the future, the problem of climate change remains – even for the more resilient Robusta coffee plant.

Quality and Innovation in Robusta

Another important factor is that the quality of Robusta is improving worldwide. Sahra Nguyen, founder of Nguyen Coffee Supply, points out that improving Robusta quality is the result of industry development towards more sustainable farming methods and more innovative production processes. This includes organic practices, harvesting ripe cherries, and new post-processing methods such as anaerobic fermentation.

Importance of Blends and Single-Origin Robusta

In recent years, more and more specialty coffee brands have started sourcing more Robusta, especially for blends. This has made them more popular in the specialty coffee world. Roasters manage rising costs, inflation, and their customer demand this way. The perception that single-origin coffees are generally “better” than blends are increasingly changing. At the same time, single-origin Robustas are also making it onto the menus of top coffee roasteries. The best Robustas now receive treatment comparable to a Gesha: complex fermentations, highest transparency, high prices, great selection, unique roasting processes. Fine Robusta has long been part of the specialty coffee industry.

What Does This Mean for the Future?

It is unlikely that Robusta prices will significantly decrease in the foreseeable future. Experts expect that climate change will continue to put pressure on Robusta (though less than on Arabica). This could have significant impacts on the entire coffee industry. Investments in Robusta, the continuous improvement of quality, and the increasing interest in Robusta in the specialty coffee segment mean exciting times and pave the way for discoveries, innovation, and new taste experiences.

The industry may be on the verge of a new era for Robusta. The growing acceptance of high-quality Robusta gives producers worldwide the opportunity to improve their products, ultimately benefiting both their country and their socio-economic sustainability.

Coffee drinkers enjoy Robusta. How often do customers stand in cafes wanting a coffee “with little acidity, bold, strong.” A Fine Robusta can meet this demand in the form of a world-class coffee without seeming like a poor Arabica.

At cumpa, we firmly believe that this dynamic market offers plenty of opportunities for innovation and resilience. By seizing these opportunities, the coffee industry demonstrates the adaptability and resilience of coffee producers and stakeholders worldwide. With the Canephorum, we want to contribute to this movement: increasing appreciation for Canephora, promoting education about Canephora, and bringing together Canephora Pioneers.

Cheers Robusta!

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