STARBUCKS, the US-based coffee chain, has doubled its order for Blue Mountain coffee, the second consecutive year it has increased its demand.
The company has confirmed 220 barrels or 15,400 kilogrammes of the bean to be delivered when the crop is ready, said Michael Lyn, general manager of Gold Cup Coffee Company.
"We haven't set a date for delivery," Lyn said. Taking the bean through the "green stage" to processing takes time, he told the Business Observer, and that determines when delivery is made.
Starbucks ordered 110 barrels last year, a 60 per cent increase from the 70 barrels it took in 2010. The coffee store giant sells Blue Mountain coffee for about US$5 ($430) a cup, according to its website
Gold Cup's coffee beans have already been tested for quality through the cupping process that determines the flavour and aroma of the beverage. However, Lyn said Starbucks representatives were to visit Gold Cup's Amber Estate in the Blue Mountains today "just to see the farm".
Lyn did not give the value of the product to be sold to Starbucks, saying it varies among suppliers and buyers.
However, given the base price for such coffee, it could sell for just over US$400,000, said Christopher Gentles, director general of the Coffee Industry Board (CIB), adding that it's also determined by the terms of the contract.
The CIB is responsible for assuring the quality of Jamaican coffee and developing the local coffee industry.
The sector stands to benefit significantly from the exposure that Starbucks offers, Gentles said.
"We're looking for a few good men to represent one of the finest brands of coffee in the world," he said. "Starbucks has done an excellent job to date and we hope that the others will recognise the intrinsic properties of the brand and want to represent it."
Lyn also said he's expecting a decline in orders for next year, given the "shaky period" that the coffee industry is going through.
Prices have declined somewhat, although they were still "fair", Lyn said. The downturn has been chalked up to declining orders from Japan, which he said would generally take 80 per cent of local stock.
Gentles said that the decline due to the global recession is expected to reverse this year.
However, the berry borer pest is wreaking havoc on many farms. The government committed $9 million to addressing the problem last week but that's only a fraction of the $90 million the CIB said is needed.
An earlier report noted that the pest threatens to destroy about half of the island's coffee plantations, which would result in export losses of almost half a billion dollars this year.
Levels of infestation by the borer, a small beetle that lives only on coffee berries, is said to have increased from below 10 per cent nationally to about 13 per cent now.
Starbucks started in 1971 and has over 17,000 stores in 55 countries.