19. THE COMMERCIAL COFFEES OF THE WORLD
The geographical distribution of the coffees grown in North America, Central America, South America, the West India Islands, Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the East Indies—A statistical study of the distribution of the principal kinds—A commercial coffee chart of the world's leading growths, with market names and general trade characteristics
A study of the geographical distribution of the coffee tree shows that it is grown in well-defined tropical limits. The coffee belt of the world lies between the tropic of cancer and the tropic of capricorn. The principal coffee consuming countries are nearly all to be found in the north temperate zone, between the tropic of cancer and the arctic circle.
The leading commercial coffees of the world are listed in the accompanying commercial coffee chart, which shows at a glance their general trade character. The cultural methods of the producing countries are discussed in chapter XX; statistics in chapter XXII; and the trade characteristics, in detail, in chapter XXIV, which considers also countries and coffees not so important in a commercial sense. Mexico is the principal producing country in the northern part of the western continent, and Brazil in the southern part. In Africa, the eastern coast furnishes the greater part of the supply; while in Asia, the Netherlands Indies, British India, and Arabia lead.
Within the last two decades there has been an expansion of the production areas in South America, Africa, and in southeastern Asia; and a contraction in British India and the Netherlands Indies.
Seldom does the coffee drinker realize how the ends of the earth are drawn upon to bring the perfected beverage to his lips. The trail that ends in his breakfast cup, if followed back, would be found to go a devious and winding way, soon splitting up into half-a-dozen or more straggling branches that would lead to as many widely scattered regions. If he could mount to a point where he could enjoy a bird's-eye view of these and a hundred kindred trails, he would find an intricate criss-cross of streamlets and rivers of coffee forming a tangled pattern over the tropics and reaching out north and south to all civilized countries. This would be a picture of the coffee trade of the world.
It would be a motion picture, with the rivulets swelling larger at certain seasons, but seldom drying up entirely at any time. In the main the streamlets and rivers keep pretty much the same direction and volume one year after another, but then there is also a quiet shifting of these currents. Some grow larger, and others diminish gradually until they fade out entirely. In one of the regions from which they take their source a tree disease may cause a decline; in another, a hurricane may lay the industry low at one quick stroke; and in still another, a rival crop may drain away the life-blood of capital. But for the most part, when times are normal, the shift is gradual; for international trade is conservative, and likes to run where it finds a well-worn channel.
In recent times, of course, the big disturbing element in the coffee trade was the World War. Whole countries were cut out of the market, shipping was drained away from every sea lane, stocks were piled high in exporting ports, prices were fixed, imports were sharply restricted, and the whole business of coffee trading was thrown out of joint. To what extent has the world returned to normal in this trade? Were the stoppages in trade merely temporary suspensions, or are they to prove permanent? How are the old, long-worn channels filling up again, now that the dams have been taken away?
We are now far enough removed from the war to begin to answer these questions. We find our answer in the export figures of the chief producing countries, which for the most part are now available in detail for one or two post-war years. These figures are given in the tables below; and for comparison, there are also given figures showing the distribution of exports in 1913 and in an earlier year near the beginning of the century. These figures, of course, do not necessarily give an accurate index to normal trade; as in any given year some abnormal happening, such as an exceptionally large crop or a revolution, may affect exports drastically as compared with years before and after. But normally the proportions of a country's exports going to its various customers are fairly constant one year after another, and can be taken for any given year as showing approximately the coffee currents of that period.
The figures following are for the calendar year unless the fiscal year is indicated. Where figures could not be obtained from the original statistical publications, they have been supplied as far as possible from consular reports.
Brazil. The war naturally increased the dependence of Brazil on its chief customer, and the proportion of the total crop coming to this country since the war has continued to be large. Shipments to United States ports in 1920 represented about fifty-four percent of the total exports. Figures for that year indicate also that France and Belgium were working back to their normal trade; but that Spain, Great Britain, and the Netherlands were taking much less coffee than in the year just before the war. Germany was buying strongly again, her purchases of 72,000,000 pounds being about half as much as in 1913. Shipments to Italy were four times as heavy as in 1913. The natural return to normal was much interfered with by speculation and valorization. Brazil seems to have come through the cataclysmic period of the war in better style than might have been expected.
The 1900 figures are for the ports of Rio, Santos, Bahia, and Victoria.
"Other countries" in 1913 included Argentina, 32,941,182 pounds; Sweden, 28,045,737 pounds; Cape Colony, 15,930,731 pounds; Denmark, 6,252,931 pounds. In 1920 they included Argentina, 37,736,498 pounds; Sweden, 51,026,591 pounds; Denmark, 18,764,483 pounds; Cape Colony, 26,936,653 pounds.
Venezuela. Venezuela's coffee trade was deeply affected by the war; both because the Germans were prominent in the industry, and because the regular shipping service to Europe was discontinued. Large amounts of coffee were piled up at the ports and elsewhere; and when the restrictions were swept away in 1919, an abnormal exportation resulted. Although Germany had been one of the chief buyers before the war, Venezuela was by no means dependent on the German market. In fact, her combined shipments to France and the United States, just before the war, were three times as great as her exports to Germany. These two countries took two-thirds of her total exports in 1920. Spain and the Netherlands were also prominent buyers.
Colombia. Colombian statistics of foreign trade are issued very irregularly, and no figures are available to afford comparison between pre-war and post-war trade. The figures below, however, will show the comparative amounts of coffee going to the chief buying countries at different periods. From these it will be seen that the countries mainly interested in the trade in Colombian coffee are those prominent in the trade in other tropical American sections. England, France, Germany, and the United States took the great bulk of the exports. A consular report written after the outbreak of the war says:
Prior to the war the United States took about seventy percent of Colombia's coffee crop; the remainder being about equally divided between England, France, and Germany, with England taking the largest share.
[A] These figures are taken from a consular report, which gave statistics only for the port of Barranquilla and did not include the total shipments from that port. Shipments from Cartagena, the only other exporting port of any consequence, amounted to 7,836,505 pounds, destination not stated. The Barranquilla figures, in the absence of official statistics, can be taken as fairly representative of the total trade so far as destination is concerned. They are for fiscal years, ending June 30.
"Other countries" in 1916 included Italy, 1,135,137 pounds; Venezuela, 20,564,321 pounds; Dutch West Indies, 400,132 pounds.
Central America. The three largest producing countries of Central America, Guatemala, Salvador, and Costa Rica, were all closely linked to Germany by the coffee trade before the war. German capital was heavily invested in coffee plantations; German houses had branches in the principal cities; and German ships regularly served the chief ports. Accordingly, when the blockade became effective, these countries were placed in a difficult position. But fortunately for them, a special effort had been made shortly before by Pacific-coast interests in the United States to divert a part of the coffee trade to San Francisco The market to the east being shut off, these countries turned naturally to the north. This trade with the United States has apparently been firmly established, and there has not yet been much of a return to German ports.
Guatemala. Of the three countries named, Guatemala was the most heavily involved in German trade. In 1913 she sent to Germany 53,000,000 pounds of coffee, a fifth more than in 1900. Her shipments of more than 10,000,000 pounds to the United Kingdom were about the same as at the beginning of the century. The war turned both these currents into United States ports, and they continued to flow in that direction through 1920. The figures follow:
"Other countries" in 1913 included Austria-Hungary, 4,205,400 pounds; Netherlands, 407,900 pounds. In 1920, they included Netherlands, 10,355,625 pounds; Sweden, 422,421 pounds; Norway, 57,408 pounds; Spain, 97,519 pounds; France, 27,956 pounds.
Salvador. Salvador is one of the countries in which the publication of foreign-trade statistics has been irregular in the past, and none is available to show the full trade in coffee at the beginning of the century. A consular report gives figures for the first half of 1900. The most recent statistics show that the United States still holds much of the trade gained during the war, although Salvador is sending to Scandinavian countries many millions of pounds of her coffee that came to the United States in war-time.
"Other countries" in 1913 included Norway, 2,070,220 pounds; Sweden, 2,238,332 pounds; Netherlands, 738,694 pounds; Chile, 609,441 pounds; Russia, 95,625 pounds; Denmark, 140,665 pounds. In 1920, they included Norway, 10,726,375 pounds; Chile, 1,772,346 pounds; Netherlands, 1,071,614 pounds; Sweden, 9,635,947 pounds; Denmark, 1,061,772 pounds.
Costa Rica. English, French, and German capital was heavily invested in Costa Rica before the war, and all three nations were interested in the coffee trade. For many years England had maintained the lead as a coffee customer, and shipments continued in large volume after the war. The following figures are for the crop year ending September 30:
In 1900 total shipments were 35,496,055 pounds, of which 20,587,712 pounds went to Great Britain; 8,874,014 pounds to the United States; and 3,904,566 pounds to Germany.
"Other countries" in 1903 included Spain, 49,189 pounds; Italy, 4,104 pounds. In 1921, they included Netherlands, 837,496 pounds; Spain, 308,308 pounds; Chile, 9,259 pounds.
Mexico. Mexico has naturally sent most of her coffee across the border into the United States, and she continued to do so during and after the war. But she had worked up a very important trade with Europe, chiefly with Germany; and German capital, and German planters and merchants were prominent in the industry. France and England also were interested in the trade, and purchased annually several million pounds. During the war, as shown by the exports in its final year, this trade almost entirely ceased, and the United States and Spain remained as the only consumers of Mexican coffee. Details of the after-war trade are not yet available in published statistics. In the following table, 1900 and 1918 are calendar years, and 1913 is a fiscal year.
In 1913 "other countries" included Panama, 342,131 pounds; Canada, 276,567 pounds; Sweden, 3,079 pounds; British Honduras, 33,179 pounds; Denmark, 112 pounds.
Jamaica. The French, more than any other peoples in Europe, have cultivated a taste for coffee from the West Indies; and France normally has led all other countries in shipments from the larger producing islands, including Jamaica, although the island is a British possession. In the year before the war, France bought nearly 4,000,000 pounds of Jamaican coffee, more than half the total production. In the year 1900–01 also she took about 4,000,000 pounds, leading all other countries. This trade was very much cut down during the war, but was not wiped out. As shown in the figures for 1918, England largely took the place of France in that year, and Canada increased her purchases several hundred percent.
"Other countries" in 1901 included British West Indies, 316,512 pounds. In 1913, they included Netherlands, 125,216 pounds; Norway, 28,896 pounds; Sweden, 70,224 pounds; Italy, 46,592 pounds; Australia, 71,456 pounds.
Haiti. Prior to the taking over of the administration of the customs of Haiti by the United States, detailed statistics of the exports are almost wholly lacking. France took most of the annual production, continuing a trade that dated back to old colonial times. An American consular report says:
Before the war there was no market for Haitian coffee in the United States, practically the entire crop going to Europe, with France as the largest consumer. However, there has been for some time past a determined effort made to create a demand in the United States, and this is said to be meeting with ever-increasing success.
The actual success achieved can be measured by the following figures for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1920:
These figures do not include 6,322,167 pounds of coffee triage, or waste, of which the United States took 2,028,352 pounds; France, 1,491,507 pounds.
Dominican Republic. The comparatively small production of the Dominican Republic was divided among the United States and three or four European countries before the war. Since the war the exports have been scattered among the former customers in varying amounts. Germany is again a buyer, although her purchases have not come back to anything like the pre-war level.
[B] No shipments, or included in "other countries."
"Other countries" in 1920 included only the Netherlands.
Porto Rico. In spite of several attempts on the part of Porto-Rican planters to make their product popular in the markets of the United States, the American consumer has never found the taste of that coffee to his liking. The big market for the Porto-Rican product has been Cuba, which has depended on her neighbor for most of her supply. This demand takes a large part of the annual crop, including the lower grades. The better grades, before the war, went largely to Europe, mostly to the Latin countries. During the war, the Cuban market carried the Porto-Rican planters through, although shipments of considerable size continued to go to France and Spain. Recovery of the pre-war trade with Europe, however, has been slow, Spain being the only country to take over 1,000,000 pounds in 1920. Shipments to that country totaled 3,472,204 pounds; those to France, 900,868 pounds. Both countries increased their purchases considerably in 1921.
[C] Includes Norway.
Hawaii. The war disarranged Hawaii's coffee trade very little, as she had for many years been shipping chiefly to continental United States. Recently a considerable trade with the Philippines has developed.
[D] No exports, or included in "other countries."
Aden. Lying on the edge of the war area and on the road to India, Aden felt the full force of the disarrangement of commercial traffic by the war. Ordinarily, Aden is not only the chief outlet for the coffee of the interior of Arabia—the original "Mocha"—but it is also the transhipping point for large amounts from Africa and India. The figures given below relate for the most part to this transhipped coffee. Exports of coffee from Aden go chiefly to the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, and to other ports of Arabia and Africa. Before the war no great proportion went to the Central Powers. The following figures apply to fiscal years ending March 31:
[E] Including adjacent islands, but exclusive of British territory.
"Other countries" in 1914 included Australia, 222,320 pounds; Perim, 142,016 pounds; Zanzibar, 148,848 pounds; Mauritius, 154,672 pounds; Seychelles, 116,704 pounds; Sweden, 118,720 pounds; Norway, 49,168 pounds; Russia, 196,448 pounds. In 1921, they included Denmark, 120,624 pounds; Spain, 124,208 pounds; Massowah, 410,704 pounds.
British India. As India's trade before the war was chiefly with the mother country, with France, and with Ceylon, the return to normal has been rapid. In the year following the war, these three customers were again credited with the largest amounts exported from India, except for shipments to Greece, which took little before the war. The following figures are for the fiscal years ending March 31:
[F] Including adjacent islands.
"Other countries" in 1914 included Netherlands, 238,560 pounds; Australia, 748,608 pounds; Bahrein Islands, 757,568 pounds. In 1920, they included Greece, 6,487,376 pounds; Australia, 481,152 pounds; Bahrein Islands, 1,081,696 pounds; Aden and dependencies, 459,984 pounds; other Arabian ports, 890,176 pounds.
Dutch East Indies. The war played havoc with the coffee trade of the Dutch East Indies, taking away shipping, closing trade routes, and causing immense quantities of coffee to pile up in the warehouses. When the war ended, this coffee was released; and trade was consequently again abnormal, although in the opposite direction from that it took during war years. The 1920 figures indicate that the trade is working back into its old channels.
[G] These figures cover only Java and Madura.
[H] Includes shipments "for orders."
"Other countries" in 1920 included, Norway, 2,606,421 pounds; Sweden, 728,580 pounds; Australia, 1,553,495 pounds; British India, 1,912,541 pounds; Italy, 1,964,109 pounds; Denmark, 1,191,643 pounds; Belgium, 166,092 pounds.