Brazil, once the top supplier to Japan has now been surpassed by Vietnam after the impact of COVID-19. As more people in the country are working from home during the pandemic, levels of consumption for instant coffee have risen significantly.
With consumption patterns changing, this has driven demand for Robusta coffee beans, as it’s mainly used to make instant coffee due to it is generally seen a cheaper, more bitter variety. Whereas, sales of the higher-quality Arabica beans, which is considered superior for its aroma, taste and overall quality, and used mostly by coffee shops have fallen.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought Japan into a state of emergency in April, with closures of cafes and restaurants across the country. Even forcing Starbucks Coffee in Japan to halt business at around 1,100 outlets. This resulted in a huge loss of demand for Arabica beans.
With the current consumption trend of drinking instant coffee at home, this has made Vietnam, the world’s biggest producer of Robusta, Japan’s top supplier of coffee beans overtaking the long-standing number 1 supplier, Brazil.
Even after the state of emergency was lifted, customer traffic has not fully recovered, keeping demand for Arabica weak.Masaomi Arakawa, Heads the coffee business at S. Ishimitsu & Co., a Kobe-based distributor.
Changes in consumption patterns have also affected Japan’s imports of unroasted coffee beans. According to trade data,
Vietnam was the top seller of unroasted beans to Japan for the first seven months of the year, A total of 67,392 tons of unroasted beans were imported from the Southeast Asian country during the period, up 26% on the year.
Meanwhile, imports from Brazil’s predominantly Arabica beans, plunged 40% during the period to 63,850 tons.