How big will Indonesian coffee exports be?
The US Department of Agriculture’s Jakarta bureau has pegged shipments for 2017-18, on an April-to-June basis, at 8.31m bags.
That is 110,000 bags above the official USDA estimate.
And it is easy to see why, judging by the country’s strong performance for much of calendar 2017.
“Shipments during January-August are 108,000 tonnes above the corresponding period in 2016,” the bureau notes, listing the US, Germany, Malaysia, Russia, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, Algeria, Egypt and China as top buyers.
The trouble is that data after August show shipments, which from Indonesia are mainly of robusta beans, in a marked retreat.
September exports tumbled 28% year on year to 20.5m tonnes.
And October shipments, at 10.9m tonnes, were down 71% year on year, and at their lowest since May last year.
One problem for Indonesia is that Vietnam, the top robusta grower, which suffered weak output last year, is seen as having a far better 2017-18, to judge by early harvest reports.
Indeed, world robusta output for the season will grow by 4m bags to 65m bags, according to Volcafe.
Then there is the question of how much Indonesia will have available to ship, after the strong export performance of 2016-17.
Indeed, the USDA bureau sees the country’s stocks ending last season at a minimal 12,000 bags.
Of course, getting accurate estimates of coffee inventories, and production, even in any of the major growing countries is difficult.
But what gives credence to ideas of supplies not being forthcoming is a rise in Indonesian prices, quoted by Reuters on Thursday for grade 4 defect 80 robusta beans at $60-70 a bag above London January futures, up from $50 a bag a week before.
This while prices are easing in Vietnam amid increasing confidence in the harvest.
Whether they are holding out for higher prices, or just do not have as much to sell as observers believe, Indonesian producers don’t seem to be rushing to get short of their coffee.