REUTERS

NEW YORK — Coffee processors in the United States are scrambling to secure Colombian coffee stocks as recent protests in the South American country have disrupted deliveries to the world’s largest coffee consumer.

Stocks of Colombian coffee, a very popular type of mild arabica beans among US customers, are rapidly shrinking as roasters with contracts to supply groceries and coffee shops with coffee specifically labeled as 100% Colombian rush to get those bags, importers said.

Some of that Colombian coffee will be replaced by other mild beans from Central American countries, they said, but at a smaller scale.

“You can’t really replace Colombians. Big roasters have commitments to deliver those packages to supermarkets,” said a US-based coffee importer, adding that he has basically ran out of that coffee in the last few days.

He said prices for Colombian coffee stocked in the United States rose to up to 75 cents per pound over ICE futures in the local cash market, from a 55 to 58 cents premium before the anti-government protests in Colombia that blocked roads and stopped the flow of coffee to ports.

Protests have paused, but it will take time for normal flows to resume.

“It should take 60 to 90 days. There is a short supply of Colombians in the arrivals, in the offloads at ports,” said Christian Wolthers, a partner at US coffee importer Wolthers Douqué LLC.

Jairo Castano Vargas, who works for an independent Colombian coffee exporter, said that despite the formal end of protests, problems persist.

“Some trucks with goods have been attacked by demonstrators when approaching the ports,” he said. The port of Cartagena is still only at 20% of loading capacity.

A third US importer said that some roasters who are not contractually obligated to supply coffee from a specific origin may replace Colombian beans with other coffees in their blends.

He also said that smaller specialty coffee roasters may take Colombian coffees off the shelf temporarily if they cannot find them at reasonable prices. — Reuters