Economic Importance Of Coffee

Coffee, a significant factor in international trade for about 185 years, is among the leading agricultural products in international trade along with wheat, corn, and soybeans. The total world exportable production of green coffee in the 1997-1998 growing season is approximately 81.7 million bags (Table 1). This compares with a total production of about 107.5 million bags, the difference being internal consumption. Table 2 shows imports and consumption data.

The International Coffee Organization and Association of Coffee Producing Companies assign export quotas to their members to help stabilize coffee pricing. Composite U.S. prices for green coffees in 1997 and 1998 ranged between $2.20/kg and $3.97/kg. For Colombians, the range was $3.22/kg to $5.82/kg, whereas for robustas it was $1.49/kg to $2.11/kg. These compare with a peak of about $6.60/kg in April 1977 following a disastrous frost in Brazil in 1975.


The coffee plant is a relatively small tree or shrub, often controlled to a height of 2 to 3 m, belonging to the family Rubiaceae. Coffea arabica accounts for 70%, Coffea robusta, 29%, and Coffea liberica and others, 1% of world production. Arabustas, hybrid coffees that combine many disease-resistant characteristics of robustas with many fa-

Table 1. Green Coffee Production and Exportable Product 1997-1998

Million of 60-kg bags"

Table 1. Green Coffee Production and Exportable Product 1997-1998

Million of 60-kg bags"

Principal countries


Exportable product


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