11 January 2013

Coffee Production and Consumption

Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast, 1999, Excerpts

With 28-pound annual per-capita consumption, the Finns drink more coffee than anyone in the world. The United States, which bought half the world’s coffee just after WWII, now consumes about 20 percent, with a united Germany close behind. Japan now accounts for 11 percent of worldwide coffee sales, and the Japanese appreciate high quality, buying some of the world’s best beans.

World consumption – people spend approximately $80 billion annually for coffee in all forms – is growing only at a modest rate as we enter a new century. The steady decline in the United States has been arrested by the specialty revolution, but per capita intake remains static at around 10 pounds per year. Specialty coffee now accounts for approximately 20 percent of US home coffee consumption. Even the big roasters have improved the quality of their blends, with Arabica content growing. For years, northern Europeans set the standard for coffee quality while the mass market barbarians in the United Stares drank coffee swill.

By 2000, world coffee production and consumption should exceed one hundred million bags a year. With more sophisticate machinery, mechanize harvesting will become somewhat more common, but hand picking will still predominate. Even with new science and technology, however, the coffee industry will remain essentially unchanged. The boom-bust cycle will continue to send prices reeling up and down, exacerbated by frosts, droughts, speculative hedge funds, and the major roasters’ just-in-time inventory practices, which leave them more vulnerable to shortages. The worldwide trend toward higher-quality coffee, for which consumers are willing to pay premium prices, gives some grounds for hope that small farmers and laborers may someday break out of poverty, though that day is certainly far in the future.

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