food / travel

How Asia's High-End Demand Fuels South American Coffee Exports

Amid post-pandemic trade distortions and changing consumer habits, Latin American countries seeking to boost coffee exports should eye a growing specialty market in prosperous Asian countries.

photo of a newspaper and cup of coffee

Morning coffee in Shanghai

SimplisticSimon
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGO — Like many sectors of the economy, coffee production has suffered the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But COVID-19 and a consequent change of habits that include working from home have also boosted consumption of hot and caffeinated drinks. Now, cultivators of a crop grown around the Tropic of Capricorn are striving to meet this global demand of around three billion cups of coffee per day.

As marketing consultants Euromonitor observed in a recent study, coffee is an eminently social drink and global lockdowns distorted social habits. At the same time, consumers are also seeking out drinks thought to boost the immune system and provide comfort during this troubling era.


Euromonitor has spotted three brewing trends that are providing a shot of adrenaline to coffee sales.

Rising prices

The first was technological advances giving machines the edge over humans preparing your coffee. The second is an increase in labor costs as countries face worker shortages. The third is an increasing number of consumers getting comfortable with digital and contactless purchasing, which makes them less averse to automated production.

Further, all consumer packaged goods (CPG) firms, including the drinks industry, may soon feel the effects of inflation. Workforce shortages, supply bottlenecks, extreme weather events linked to climate change and other distortions rooted in the pandemic have pushed prices of inputs sharply above those of 2019.

But there is hope for sellers — in the Asian market. Euromonitor believes that China and Japan aside, the ASEAN states could add $168 million to retail sales of coffee by 2025. Two coffee-making countries in Latin America should take note and act on this potential.

photo of bad of harvested coffee File:Coffee harvested costa rica.jpg - Wikimedia Commons commons.wikimedia.org

​Costa Rica: Looking for a niche

Small-scale coffee farming is said to have moulded Costa Rican society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Alongside pineapples and bananas, it was long the country's star product.

Today the country devotes 93,000 hectares to coffee farming, which employs some 27,000 family enterprises. While the volume of harvests has slightly fallen since 2019, Costa Rica does target smaller, gourmet markets. David Ortiz, a spokesman for the Costa Rica Coffee Institute (ICAFE), tells América Economía that Costa Rica focuses mostly on specialty coffee consumers in the United States and Belgium.

Coffee now constitutes 1% of the national GDP, with 1.3% of it exported to Japan and 3.9% to South Korea. Ortiz tells América Economía, "The Chinese market is very important as it is developing in terms of specialty coffee, but we need to focus efforts on finding those market niches that can aid its commercial development" in China, and other East Asian countries.

Ortiz says the pandemic was hampering exports due to a shortage of containers and there were still risks of "some kind of infection in our containers," although Costa Rica had implemented protocols to block infections among farmworkers. He cites climate change as another threat, despite adaptation measures like the Nationally Approved Mitigation Actions designed to make coffee production carbon neutral.

​Blockchain java from Peru

While not traditionally associated with Peru, coffee has become its third farming export, after blueberries and grapes. The Agricultural Development Ministry (Midagri) measured coffee exports in 2020 at 3.5 million sacks (each holding 60 kilograms of grains), shipped mostly to Europe and the United States. This is expected to increase 10% in 2021.

Mario Ocharan is the head of exports promotions at Promperú, Peru's country brand agency. Ocharan tells América Economía that the country is now the world's 10th conventional coffee exporter: "We were in 20th position in 2010. We're also the world's second organic coffee exporter, after Mexico, and number one for specialty and fair trade coffees."

Ocharan says certain regions in Peru have unique coffees that have won awards abroad. Peruvian coffee's "big achievement this year was to attain between 20 and 30 centavos more per quintal" on the New York Stock Exchange, thanks to improved quality. "They're almost beating the coffees competing directly with us in Asia and Central America," he says.

Ocharan attributes this success to conditions like Peru's differing climates, but also collaborative efforts to make production more competitive, "from the selection of seeds to using blockchain, where something as traditional as coffee is digitized as far as it can be through these certified international sales."

Sent to Singapore

This is helping Peruvian coffees enter the Asian markets. In May this year, a contest and digital auction allowed one of its specialty coffees — the Origen Marín Lote 45 from Villa Rica in the province of Oxapampa — to be sold out and exported to Singapore. Ocharan says Peru is working to take advantage of interest in countries like Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and China for "these special coffees we produce."

The government and Promperú have created the Café del Perú brand to promote the particular qualities of Peruvian coffee. One objective is to target the diverging tastes of different markets in Europe, the United States and East Asian countries.

The plan has three pillars, according to Ocharan. The first is diversity, not just in genetic variations, but also in altitude levels and the ways these coffees are processed. The second is specialty. And the third is centering its Peruvian origin, showing the world Peru's ancestral quality and that local agriculture doesn't end with coffee. Peru is the cradle of so many products like potatoes, quinoa and the Alpaca-based fabrics. The beans might just kick off more demand for these goods.

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

Iran's hard line on nuclear talks keeps getting harder

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear power watchdog, reported yesterday that Iran has started producing enriched uranium with more efficient advanced centrifuges at its Fordow plant. It’s just the latest sign, write Kayhan London’s Ahmad Ra'fat and Hamed Mohammadi, that the talks that reopened this week on Iran’s nuclear program have slim chances of forging a deal:

After a four-month hiatus, Iran has resumed talks on its nuclear program with other signatory countries of the suspended, multilateral pact of 2015. These are Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, and the European Union (EU). The talks that began this week in Vienna exclude the United States, an original signatory that withdrew from the pact in 2018 — and while the U.S. administration under President Joe Biden says it favors a deal, it is only indirectly involved, through the EU.

Prospects for this round remain dim, given Iran's preconditions and the stated objectives of Western states. The Iranian deputy-foreign minister, Ali Baqeri-Kani, said on a recent trip to several EU states that Iran would only resume talks to discuss ending sanctions on it, and there would be no discussions for a nuclear agreement. He was suggesting that an end to all sanctions — whether for Tehran's nuclear program, rights violations or terrorism abroad — was the central condition for more talks.

It was also reported Wednesday by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear power watchdog, that Iran has started producing enriched uranium with more efficient advanced centrifuges at its Fordow plant.

Likewise, a recent and fruitless trip to Tehran by IAEA head Rafael Grossi will not help. Grossi could not persuade Iran to allow renewed IAEA inspections of its atomic sites, which will impede an agreement in Vienna. The three European signatory powers have already criticized Iran's refusal to open up its sites, though Iranian officials dispute that interpretation, saying an agreement was reached "in principle" to resolve "technical" issues.

The latest report by the IAEA chief to its governing board, currently meeting in Vienna, says Iran has augmented its enriched uranium reserves (of potential use in weapon-making) to 2,489 kilograms. The European countries say there is no reason for Iran enriching uranium to 20% and 60% levels, without military objectives. They are also concerned with Iran's continued renovation and updating of centrifuges.

U.S. military and diplomatic officials have warned that the United States is ready to give Iran a firm response if it pursues its furtive activities and refuses to negotiate in Vienna. In the Middle East, Israeli officials alternately say they could accept a pact that blocks Iran's nuclear weaponization and warn Israel will strike Iran, if this turns out to not be possible.

Iran promised Grossi last September that it would repair IAEA cameras at its nuclear installations, thus evading a rebuke by the IAEA governing board. This time, it seems to be playing hardball. It has not only banned access to the Tesa complex outside Tehran, of interest to the IAEA, but insisted the international agency must condemn Israel's suspected sabotage of Iranian installations, and desist any investigation into the sources of uranium traces found at undeclared installations in Iran.

Iran also wants the Biden administration not just to lift all sanctions, but bind future administrations to a new pact. Does it really imagine that a U.S. president is willing or empowered to commit his successors to a pact?

Iran has also complained about the damages it suffered for the non-implementation of the 2015 pact. All these suggest it doesn't really want a practical agreement with the West.

As Western powers intermittently threaten it with an "alternative" response, at least part of Iran's top leadership is already envisaging turning the country into a militarized bunker to safeguard the regime. This means spending more on missiles and arms for proxy militias in the region — which are precisely the other issues the West is keen to discuss, to Iran's utter dismay.

Amid reports of the "strategic" hoarding of basic goods and multiple military maneuvers, are Iran's rulers preparing themselves for a state of crisis or utter calamity? In case of any attack, could they count on the backing of a nation they have mistreated and impoverished over decades?

Ahmad Ra'fat and Hamed Mohammadi / Kayhan-London

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

A “pro-life” activist in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C, as the abortion battle heats up in the United-States — Photo: Stefani Reynolds/CNP/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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