Economics

Brazil remains the largest coffee exporting nation, but in recent years Vietnam has become a major producer of robusta beans. Four single roaster companies buy more than 50 percent of all of the annual production: Kraft, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, and Sara Lee. The preference of the "Big Four" coffee companies for cheap robusta is believed by many to have been a major contributing factor to the crash in coffee prices, and the demand for high-quality arabica beans is only slowly recovering. Many experts believe the giant influx of cheap green coffee after the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement of 1975–1989 led to the prolonged price crisis from 1989 to 2004. In 1997 the price of coffee in New York broke US$3.00/lb, but by late 2001 it had fallen to US$0.43/lb. In 2007, wholesale coffee was about US$1/lb (e.g. 69 cents in London in March to 134 cents in New York in October), with robusta being about 70% of the price of arabica. Retail prices varied from an average of $3 in Poland to $3.50 in the US to $17 in the UK.

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