Production And Consumption Of Coffee

( Originally Published 1900 )

UNDER the headings of the different countries where coffee is grown a general idea of the production has been given, but it will be well to tabulate out the total of last year's crops to give some idea of the vastness of the coffee trade of the world, and by inference the enormous amount of capital engaged in it. As with every article which depends largely upon climatic changes, there must be a considerable difference between the harvests of different years, but grown as it is in both hemispheres and in so many different countries, it is hardly to be expected that failure—or even partial failure—will be found in all countries in the same year. Neither is it to be expected that there will be abundance in all places at the same time, and though it is certain that in the latter case, with the low prices which would result, the consumption would certainly increase, yet in the former case the high prices would certainly lead to a diminution of consumption in a more marked degree. That this is so has been proved in comparatively recent times, as in 1884-6, when the consumption had overtaken production, and some years of high prices following, the ratio was completely changed, the reduction being brought about by two causes. First, it was found that adulteration was carried on on a much larger scale, and, secondly, whenever the retail price of coffee rises above a certain point, other drinks, notably tea and cocoa, take its place.

Turning to consumption, it is difficult to give a full, comprehensive table, for the use of coffee has extended at an enormous rate of late years, until at the present time it is found in every civilized country, and in many which would be classified as uncivilized. There is, however, still a vast field to open up, for were the teeming millions of China and Japan to develop a liking for this most enticing beverage, and a change of habit from the enormous consumption of tea to come over our own country, it would mean the opening up of still untouched areas, and a production to correspond thereto which it is impossible now to conceive of.

With such figures it compels us to ask why is the consumption in this country so out of proportion to that in others. There are some would say it is a question of climate. Yet we do not find the greatest consumption either in the cold or in the hot countries. Further, in the great area of the continent of North America there are vast areas where the climate is not so greatly different from this country, and yet the consumption there is not confined to any one part, but is spread over the whole of the United States. Others will say it is due to our duties making the retail cost too high. Yet this cannot be the true cause, as duties in both France and Germany are higher—especially since the recent re-arrangement of the German tariff—and the price of the article in both countries is much dearer than here. Again it cannot be caused by inferiority of quality, for in no country in the world is finer coffee consumed. The London market quotations will show that this is the case. Apart from two other suggestions, which will be dealt with later, it is possibly due either to the cheap price of tea, cheap because it will " go " so much farther," it being possible to " water the pot " many times, whereas with coffee it is not ; or, in the fact that it is a little more trouble to make than tea, and in these days of hurry and bustle, time is most important. At the same time, against this last suggestion one would think that hurry and bustle " were a more marked feature in the United States of America than in this country. The other suggestions, which will be referred to under their respective headings, are the question of roasting and of adulteration. We are, however, here discussing the production and consumption in the world rather than in this country only. It will be found that price enters very largely into this question as the following facts clearly prove. Up to 1860 there was a wide disparity between the production and consumption of coffee throughout the civilized world, the former remaining stationary while the latter continued to increase rapidly until the American Civil War, which caused a reduction in that country of nearly 200,000 tons per annum, thus re-establishing the relative difference between the laws of supply and demand. With the close of the rebellion, however, and a reduction of the duty, the consumption again steadily increased, exceeding in a short time the increase in the production, causing a steady advance in prices from 1869 to 1880, the extreme advance in prices in the latter year naturally stimulated and increased production until stocks accumulated largely, and prices again declined accordingly. During the period from 1880 to 1887, planters and dealers suffered greatly, many disastrous failures among both classes following as a consequence. The consumption meanwhile continued to increase steadily, as did also the production, owing to the yield of new plantations previously opened under the stimulus of the high prices prevailing in 1880, fair relations between the production and consumption being maintained for many years.

The following statement shows what has been the per capita consumption of coffee during the five years 1899-1903 in the principal countries of Europe, the United States, Australia, and Canada.

In considering the above figures, it must be remembered that coffee is free of duty in Holland and the United States, a fact which explains the apparently wide fluctuations in consumption in those countries, imports nominally entered for consumption, being often in these cases imports for stock and re-exportation, whereas when coffee is dutiable, the imports for consumption more closely agree with the actual consumption by the population, and consequently fluctuate much less from year to year. The duties levied in the various countries, reduced to English pence are as follows

Great Britain 1.50 per lb.
Germany 2.18
Holland Free
Belgium 0.43
France 5.92
Austria-Hungary 4.02
United States Free

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