Monthly Coffee Market Report
International Coffee Organization - May 2014
Published 9 June 2014 - London
After five consecutive months of rising prices, the coffee market reversed lower in May. From a high of 179 cents/lb in April, the daily price of the ICO composite indicator fell to a low of 153 cents by the end of May. Conab have lowered their estimate of the 2014/15 Brazilian crop by around 4 million bags to 44.57 million due to the effects of the drought, which would represent a second successive year of lower production. However, reports from other market analysts, including the USDA, suggest that the damage might not be as serious, with estimates of around 50 million bags, further adding to the bearish sentiment this month. They argue that the recent rains in Brazil have to some extent compensated for the earlier drought, contradicting the prevailing view that the damage inflicted in January and February cannot be undone, no matter the level of precipitation at present.
The daily price of the ICO composite indicator slipped from a high of 176.30 US cents/lb on 5 May to a low of 153.33, while the monthly average settled 3.9% lower on 163.94 cents. The drought in Brazil and resulting uncertainty over the crop have been driving prices higher since the beginning of the year, but a well-stocked supply chain has not yet felt the impact, with exports from Brazil exceeding their levels of a year ago.
In terms of the group indicators, all four monthly averages finished lower. The most significant decreases were registered in the three Arabica groups, with Colombian Milds, Other Milds and Brazilian Naturals down 4.1%, 4.2% and 4.5% respectively, while Robustas fell by 2.4%. The price of Other Milds remained above that of Colombian Milds for the fourth consecutive month, although the differential narrowed by 11.2% to 2.54 cents.
The arbitrage between the New York and London futures markets also narrowed fairly significantly, by 6.7% to 97.24 cents, but remains more than twice as wide as a year ago. The price differentials between the three Arabica group indicators and Robusta all followed a similar pattern, marginally lower than last month but still relatively high.
In addition, the coffee market remains highly volatile, with the rolling 30-day volatility of the ICO composite indicator price well above 10% since the beginning of February, at times exceeding 15%. Furthermore, average monthly volatility of the ICO composite indicator exceeded 10% for the fourth consecutive month for the first time in nearly twenty years, highlighting the extremely uncertain and nervous nature of the market at present. Exogenous impacts on market fundamentals, particularly climatic events, have always contributed to increased price volatility, yet it has been rare in recent years for the market to record such sustained levels of turbulence.
In terms of the market fundamentals, on the 15 May the Brazilian coffee authority, Conab, released an updated estimate of production in crop year 2014/15, which is revised downwards to 44.57 million bags. This is compared to the previous estimate in January of around 48.34 million bags. Production of Arabica has been lowered by over 4 million to 32.23 million bags, attributed to damage from the severe drought at the beginning of the year. In Minas Gerais, the largest producing region in the country, yields have been very badly affected by the drought, with an increased prevalence of defects, malformed and black beans, and negative consequences also expected for the 2015/16 crop.
The Robusta forecast, on the other hand, has been revised up by nearly 300,000 to 12.33 million bags, due mainly to an improvement in productivity and an increase in the area of production, particularly in Espírito Santo. The average yield for Robusta production is expected to increase from 24.1 60kg bags per hectare in 2013/14 to 27.5 in 2014/15, although some producers have reportedly recorded yields of more than 100 bags per hectare.
As a result, total production in Brazil is now expected to decline for the second consecutive year, and there are mounting concerns over the 2015/16 crop.
Turning to Colombia, Graph 6 shows monthly production levels over the last three crop years. Production fell by 14.2% in April compared to last year, but rebounded in May by 12.1% to exceed 1 million bags. This brings total production for the first eight months of crop year 2013/14 to 7.9 million bags, 24.1% higher than the same period in 2012/13, meaning that Colombia is now on course to produce its largest crop in six years.
Total exports in April increased to 10.3 million bags, 4.6% higher than April last year. This increase was mostly observed in exports from Vietnam, which were estimated up 48.5% to 2.5 million bags, as well as those from Colombia (+20.2% to 824,000 bags) and Brazil (+8.9% to 3 million bags). Nevertheless, total exports for the first seven months of coffee year 2013/14 (October to April) are still 3.4% lower than last year, with significantly lower exports from Central America and Indonesia.
Certified stocks of Robusta on the London futures market have jumped significantly, more than tripling from 274,000 to 855,000 bags at the end of April. Stocks of Arabica on the New York market have been gradually falling every month since the beginning of the year, but remain relatively unchanged on around 2.9 million bags.
Rarely have we seen a coffee market more influenced by speculation than the current one. The prevailing uncertainty surrounding the damage to the Brazilian crop presently being harvested will last for at least another month, and with it the higher than usual volatility, with all the negative implications for producers and consumers alike. Until more information is available, the ICO maintains its estimate of 44.57 million bags for the 2014/15 crop year as indicated by Conab.