With three months left in the crop year, coffee exports are up by nearly one-third relative to last year, while production has eclipsed the volumes of cherry that were picked from trees across Jamaica for all of the previous crop years.
That’s according to JACRA, the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority, which collates data for both Jamaica Blue Mountain, otherwise referred to as JBM, and high mountain coffee, with the former being the dominant category.
Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee production as of April was estimated at 257,475 kilograms for this crop year, levels that are currently running four per cent above the full-year output of 248,151 kg for the 2022 crop.
For high mountain coffee, output is currently 11,260 kg, which is tracking eight per cent above last year’s full crop.
The crop year ends annually in July.
Exports, however, aren’t tracking with output. As of April, total exports amounted to 543,990 kg, while for the full crop year, supplies to foreign markets in 2022 were 823, 302 kg.
However, relative to the comparative period last year, JACRA said exports were up.
“During crop year 2021-22, the production of cherry coffee increased by 8.5 per cent over 2020-21. Exports increased by 30 per cent over 2020-21,” the regulator told the Financial Gleaner.
But some within the coffee industry are sceptical of the numbers.
One large producer and processor said he has not seen evidence of any significant increase in exports.
“The opening of many countries with the COVID-19 restrictions relaxed, more buyers were requesting larger volumes of both green coffee and value -added coffee products,” the processor said.
“Markets seem the same to me. No one is demanding more, but JACRA has all the shipping data for all the companies in the industry, so they actually have the answer. I only know about our company.”
However, he declined to provide a forecast for his own operation.
Japan is Jamaica’s largest coffee market, consuming around 70 per cent of the crop. The United States takes five per cent, as does the European Union. Green beans are the main export.
JACRA has been saying since last year that production was up, adding that the distribution of fertiliser to coffee farmers from late 2019 into early 2021 appears to be a contributing factor for the increase in volumes.
The crop also benefited from good weather during peak reaping season in October-November 2021 for coffee grown at the lower elevations.
Last year, Statin reported that coffee exports over the period January to December 2022 rose by 19.6 per cent.
JBM remains one of the most expensive coffees in the world, with one producer saying that there are too many players in farming, distribution and production of coffee products.
Global production and competition in the speciality coffee market has increased. Jamaica itself faces rising production costs due to a weaker Jamaican dollar, pests and diseases. The sector also reaps fewer government subsidies.
JACRA says that almost 90 per cent of Jamaica’s coffee production is derived from the JBM region for the past several years.
Farmers are paid almost twice as much for coffee grown in the JBM region. Meanwhile, for exports, one producer said the Japanese will not pay more than an average US$28 per pound.
He said that to secure coffee of marketable quality, farmers were paid $9,000 per box in 2021. This year, the price to farmers is said to have risen to $10,000 per box.
Annually, negotiations for Jamaican Blue Mountain export coffee prices for the pending crop usually take place in September during visits to the Specialty Coffee Association of Japan.