Today (2011) the carriage of coffee in
containers, whether in bags or in bulk, has become universal and it is unlikely
that much if any coffee is still shipped internationally as break bulk or loose
cargo. Furthermore, estimates are that as much as 70 percent of all mainstream
coffee is now shipped in bulk. Since mainstream coffee makes up over 90% of all
coffee traded, this makes it likely that not less than 65% of all coffee traded
internationally is shipped in bulk. But the real figure could be (much) higher.
Unfortunately exact data on the amount of coffee carried in bulk versus that in
bags are not available and this information is based on feedback from coffee
shipping and trading sources. Large mainstream roasters are the major receivers
of bulk coffee and a number of them today accept nothing else. But for importers
and smaller roasters, especially specialty roasters, the proportion of bulk is
As mentioned, most large modern roasting plants no
longer accept bagged coffee and producing countries or exporters who persist in
using bags will have to transit their cargo through silo parks at destination.
Here the bagged coffee is de-bagged and transferred into silos for subsequent
delivery in bulk, sometimes after blending. This is both costly and time
consuming and will increasingly render uncompetitive those mainstream suppliers
who cannot or will not 'do bulk'.
Bulk shipments require less handling, cost less in
terms of packaging, and incur lower port and freight charges than bagged cargo.
At the receiving end they eliminate manual labour and reduce transport costs,
with the product basically presented 'ready for use' at the roasting plant. With
exact and reliable just-in-time scheduling, coffee increasingly travels directly
from origin to the roasting plants.
European Union countries hold importers directly
responsible for the disposal of waste materials such as jute and sisal bags, a
task that roasters can do without. The European Union is also increasingly
pressuring road transport to travel outside peak traffic hours: coffee in bulk
fits this development because at the terminals it can be handled mechanically,
outside normal working hours.Containerisation and cargo safety issues are under
constant research in areas as vacuum packing for green coffee; electronic seals
including door opening registration alarms; satellite tracking; securing inland
transportation; improved dessicants and use of Moisture Absorbing Material
(MAM); different fumigation and container cleaning methods; etc.