Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis/Getty

By one measure, coffee has rarely had a better day — it is the beverage fashion of choice, conferring class, cachet and cool on its drinkers almost regardless of their age or station, leading to chronic lines out the door of cafes in country after country.

But that's only if you are a retailer or restaurateur: If you are growing the beans, it is a time of want, with prices at 14-year lows and farmers leaving the business in droves. Now, with what experts fear could be the collapse of a crop that has lifted numerous regions out of poverty, growers are making a new attempt to save themselves.

What's happening: For decades, coffee growers, serving among the most internationally dispersed clientele in food, have weathered topsy-turvy prices, the result of chronic over-growing, mostly by Brazil. In 1962, the growers, inspired by the creation of OPEC by oil producers two years earlier, decided to do something about their misery. They started what they called the International Coffee Agreement, a cartel through which they would attempt to control production, and thus prices.

  • The agreement injected some stability into the market, but was undercut in the late 1980s when the U.S. withdrew. Since then, growers have made various new attempts to enforce supply discipline on themselves. But so far nothing has worked.
  • The latest attempt occurred this week in Capinas, Brazil, where growers met to try to dig out of the price trough.
  • Meeting Wednesday and yesterday, they agreed to differentiate coffee with stamps denoting a bean's origin and other factors, Reuters' Marcelo Teixeira reports. Production will not be tightened.

"The tragedy is that even though we are paying $5 for Starbucks, this is not trickling down to the producer. If a more equitable mode of production doesn't emerge, I don't know what the future of coffee is," Carmen Kordick, a professor at Southern Connecticut State University and the author of "The Saints of Progress," tells Axios.

What's next: In May the price of beans plunged to 87 cents a pound, far below the approximately $1.20 price of production, though it has since risen to $1.06. Weighing on the price continues to be oversupply, particularly from Brazil and Vietnam, the biggest producers.

The only relief has been for farmers growing particularly valued beans, such as those from parts of Tarrazu, Costa Rica, whose crop commands a significantly higher price, Kordick said.

If you are not from such a region, the only thing that has provided balance over the years has been the occasional natural disaster, said Jonathan Morris, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire and the author of "Coffee: A global history." In 2007, for instance, a disease called coffee rust wiped out coffee in Latin America, pushing prices back up to relatively high 1990s levels.

Morris advocates a simple solution: People in places that are not currently quaffing down coffee, like Americans for instance, need to start — especially in countries that are primary bean growers. He singles out China, India, Vietnam, and much of Africa.

  • In Campinas this week, the growers made a stab at promoting producer consumption. Over the coming months and years, it will be seen if they come through.
  • Meanwhile, experts say a lot of growers may not survive.

The bottom line: There have been five big eras of coffee, says Morris. "If there is to be a sixth, you would need to see producer countries as consumer countries. That is what we need to correct the price."

Go deeper

36 mins ago - World

Netanyahu and Israel reluctantly adjust to a post-Trump Washington

Netanyahu (R) and Biden in 2010. Photo: Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his close aides are very nervous about the transition to a new U.S. administration after a four-year honeymoon with Donald Trump. One Israeli official told me it felt like going through detox.

What he's saying: Netanyahu congratulated Biden minutes after he was sworn in, saying in a statement that he looked forward to working together to "continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. State of play: New coronavirus cases down, but more bad news ahead.
  2. Politics: Biden set to immediately ramp up federal pandemic response with 10 executive actions — Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. World: Biden will order U.S. to rejoin World Health OrganizationBiden to bring U.S. into global COVAX initiative for equitable vaccine access.
  4. Vaccine: Amazon offers to help Biden administration with COVID vaccine efforts.
Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

First glimpse of the Biden market

Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images

Investors made clear what companies they think will be winners and which will be losers in President Joe Biden's economy on Wednesday, selling out of gun makers, pot purveyors, private prison operators and payday lenders, and buying up gambling, gaming, beer stocks and Big Tech.

What happened: Private prison operator CoreCivic and private prison REIT Geo fell by 7.8% and 4.1%, respectively, while marijuana ETF MJ dropped 2% and payday lenders World Acceptance and EZCorp each fell by more than 1%.