The coronavirus pandemic has upended life in unprecedented and countless ways. Now it may be coming for your coffee.
Bank closures, reduced working hours, hampered mobility and fears of contagion on farms have all raised serious concerns that there won’t be enough laborers to collect coffee beans for harvests that will soon get underway. The pressure is especially acute in Colombia, Brazil and Peru, which account for almost two thirds of world output for the smooth-tasting arabica beans.
Coffee production was already forecast to fall short of demand this year, with the gap being filled by leftover stockpiles from previous harvests. Now the threat of labor shortages means a small surplus expected for next season could shrink, or get wiped out. Meanwhile, inventories have been depleted at a time when the virus unleashed a wave of grocery store panic buying. Arabica prices have jumped as a result, with futures in New York up about 16% in the past month.