Coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities globally, characterized by production in key ‘global South’ countries such as Brazil, Colombia and, more recently, Vietnam, while consumption is dominated by ‘global North’ regions in North America and Europe.
The majority of value addition through processing, branding and distribution to consumers through retail and foodservice outlets occurs within consuming regions. These stages in the value chain typically take place in consumption markets. Africa is a small but significant player in the production of coffee, with only a marginal role in more advanced stages of value addition: Africa has an 11% share of green bean production, a market worth approximately $18bn at export prices in 2009, and less than 2% share of coffee processing.
A focus on volume share alone understates Africa’s strength in the coffee market. The importance of origins in coffee, especially in the fast-growing roast and ground coffee sector, is important in the high-value end of the market. In this context, African coffees of the ‘Arabica’ variety are considered amongst the best in the world, with highest graded Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees trading for many multiples of the price of more ‘standard grade’ arabicas.