Top grade Kenyan coffee soars to $15,000 a tonne

Think grain prices are high? Kenyan coffee has topped the equivalent of $15,000 a tonne.

The highest price of best grade AA coffee jumped from $403 per 50 kilogramme bag to $757 at the latest auction, the Nairobi Coffee Exchange said. That price is equivalent to more than three times the level that New York coffee is trading at.

"You have to put it in context. That was six bags out of over  2,000 bags sold. It's not exactly a huge quantity," one exporter told Reuters.

Even so, the price easily surpassed the last peak of $702 a bag reached in March, and came amid a rise in values at the auction throughout the spectrum on offer.

Weather factors 

The increases were attributed in part to elevated futures prices. New York arabica coffee futures last week set a 13-year high of 204.60 cents a pound, equivalent to about $4,500 a tonne.

However, they also reflected the quality of the coffee on offer.

Kenya, while a small producer of arabica beans, is renowned for the high grade of its production, a factor which has been especially prized in recent months after erratic flowering patterns caused by heavy rains affected the quality of Brazilian production, while Colombia is into a third year of weather-affected production.

Kenya's crop too has suffered weather setbacks, with a typical start-of-the-year dry period, which encourages flowering, being interrupted by heavy rains.

Separately, the International Coffee Organization, in a monthly report, noted "unexpected weather patterns in key areas" of producing countries, "causing concerns over short-term supplies", but left its forecast for world output in 2010-11 unchanged at 133m 60-kilogramme bags while awaiting further details. 

'Downdraft ensued'

Kenya's price record actually came on a soft day for many markets, including coffee futures, amid nerves ahead of an announcement by the US Federal Reserve on the future of American monetary policy.

"With little apparent conviction and as other markets eased, coffee followed the mood, breaking through support just below 200 cents" a pound for New York's March contract, Ralph Hawes at Sucden Financial said.

"A downdraft ensued as sell-stops were elected, setting off a sharp collapse. London followed the decline."

New York's March contract ended down 1.5% at 198.45 cents a pound, with the near-term December lot shedding 1.6% to finish at 196.15 cents a pound.

London robusta beans for November shed 0.4% to $1,924 a tonne.

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