The Changing Dynamics of the U.S.’s Coffee Imports: A Shift from Arabica to Robusta

Published Jul 11, 2022
The United States is the world's second largest importer of coffee, with imports expected to reach 27.1 million 60-kg bags in MY 2022-23, a 3% increase year over year. The country is a traditional importer of coffee beans of the Arabica variety from main coffee producing countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Vietnam. However, in recent times, the U.S. has also started to import low-priced Robusta to blend into the coffee mix. This trend has grown over the last few years, and Arabica stocks have fallen due to unfavorable growing conditions in Brazil. The country has also recorded an increase in imports from Vietnam, which is primarily a Robusta producing country. The outlook for U.S. imports remains strong, with a higher inclination towards importing low-priced Robusta coffee.

The U.S. is the second largest importer of coffee beans in the world, with annual imports reaching over 20 million bags of 60 kg of coffee every year. Brazil owns a 30% market share in US coffee imports, followed by Colombia (19%), Vietnam (10%), and Honduras (7%). For the upcoming MY 2022–23, it is forecasted that the country will import 27.1 million 60 kg bags of coffee, which is a little over 5 thousand bags over the previous year. Coffee imports will continue to be dominated by the Arabica coffee variety, followed by the Robusta variety. A large share of the volume is imported as coffee beans, and very small volumes of roasted and ground coffee are imported by the government. Out of the 27.1 million 60 kg bags to be imported in MY 2022–23, 94% will be in the form of beans, 4% as soluble coffee, and only 2.2% as roasted ground imports.

The U.S’s Coffee Imports in 2022-23

Source: USDA

It can be seen that in the last decade, the U.S. has become very reliant on unroasted arabica coffee, particularly from Brazil and Colombia. Brazil’s market share in the country has increased from 29% to 36%, and Colombia’s market share has risen from 17% to 23%. The higher volume of coffee imports from these countries was primarily a function of higher output. Both Brazil and Colombia’s Arabica production growth is much more than other suppliers, which increases their capacity to export. However, with limited production in Brazil, due to unfavourable agro-climatic conditions and rising Arabica prices, these market dynamics could change immensely. The rising prices, in particular, could tempt some roasters to blend in additional lower-priced Robusta to reduce costs. The beginning of this trend was seen as the US increased its volume of coffee imports from countries that primarily produce the Robusta variety.

Most notably, the US imported 73,840 mt of coffee worth USD 254.8 million from Vietnam, thereby marking a YoY increase of 18.8% in volume and 69% in value over the same period last year. The average export price of Vietnamese coffee to the US in the reviewed period witnessed an annual surge of 27.2% to reach USD 2,470 per tonne. In particular, Robusta coffee exports to the US during the first four months of the year soared by 7.1% to USD 64.19 million, which is a YoY increase of 7.1% in volume and 36% in value on-year. Even so, the average export price of Vietnamese Robusta coffee in the market rose by 27% to USD 1,970 per tonne. With limited Arabica stocks in the producing regions and continuously rising prices, it is expected that the U.S. will continue to focus on importing high volumes of the less-expensive Robusta coffee for blending in the coming months.

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