Kenya's specialty coffee growers express discontent over Lockdown
NAIROBI — Kenya specialty coffee growers are beginning to feel the impact of the COVID19 Pandemic on a once flourishing enterprise.
The lockdown regulations have banned social gatherings which have led coffee café restaurants to shut their doors and this led to a sharp decline of coffee beans
Kenyan exporter Jackson Kanampiu explains that business owners are worst hit by the Lockdown because consumers are barred from the coffee shops that serve niche brews and opt for shop-bought offerings.
“We were just starting to smile with coffee prices going up “And then here comes corona.”
Consumers have ditched visiting cafes to keep social distancing and have opted for medium-quality supermarket beans to drink at home, foregoing high-end coffee shop offerings and spelling disaster for specialist suppliers.
Half of Kanampiu’s sales have disappeared as customers in China and the United States have canceled orders from his company Eagle Crown Coffee since the pandemic hit.
Global demand for specialty coffee has plummeted in recent weeks.
“We have clients in Asia who have reported 60% reductions in volumes in the first three months of the year,” Harrison said. “This is likely to be the case for Europe over the next few months.”
One prominent European specialty trader who declined to be named said the coronavirus had driven down specialty coffee demand in the United States and Europe by 40%.
For the Kenyan economy, it’s a particular blow.
Kenya is only the world’s 21st-largest coffee producer, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but around half its sales are specialty-grade coffee, according to the Speciality Coffee Association. That makes it especially vulnerable to the specialty bean crash.
About 800,000 Kenyans grow coffee, according to the International Coffee Organization, and the sector is one of Kenya’s top five foreign exchange-earners.
There’s little domestic demand, so more than 95% of production is exported, USDA data shows.