• Outlook


    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 much less.

    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'.

    Cost and convenience 

    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.

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