What Is Coffee Hedging & How Does it Impact Specialty Coffee Producers

Mitigating the impact of C-market price & market volatility on the cherry price given to specialty coffee farmers

Courtney Smith
April 13, 2023

Coffee is one of the most widely traded commodities in the world, with an estimated 25 million people involved in coffee farming and production globally. However, despite its widespread popularity, coffee farmers often struggle to receive fair prices for their crop due to the volatility of the coffee market.

Volatility of the coffee market

The volatility is due to a number of factors that can impact the price of coffee on a global scale. One of the main factors is the weather, as coffee production is highly dependent on weather conditions. Droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events can impact the quantity and quality of coffee crops, which can in turn affect the price.

Another factor is global supply and demand. The coffee market is subject to fluctuations in demand based on factors such as economic conditions, consumer trends, and the availability of competing beverages. Changes in supply can also impact the price of coffee, as new coffee producing regions emerge or existing regions experience changes in production levels.

Geopolitical events can also have a significant impact on the volatility of the coffee market. This is because coffee is a global commodity that is traded on a worldwide scale, and political events in one country or region can have a ripple effect that impacts the entire market.  In countries where political unrest, conflict, or other forms of instability are common, coffee production can be disrupted and supply chains can be disrupted. This can lead to supply shortages and price volatility as buyers and sellers try to navigate the uncertain situation.

Additionally, changes in government policies or regulations can also have an impact. For example, changes to import or export policies can impact the flow of coffee from one country to another, which can affect the price of coffee in both the exporting and importing countries.

All of these geopolitical factors can contribute to price volatility in the coffee market, which can make it difficult for coffee farmers, importers, and roasters to predict prices and plan for the future. As a result, it is important for players in the coffee industry to stay up-to-date on global events and trends that could impact the market, and to remain flexible and adaptable in order to navigate the complexities of the ever-changing industry.

The impact of the C-market price on the price given to coffee farmers for their cherry

The C-market price has a significant impact on the price given to coffee farmers for their cherry. The C-market price is a global benchmark price for coffee, which is determined by trading of coffee futures contracts on commodity exchanges. When the C-market price is high, coffee farmers can receive a higher price for their coffee cherry. However, when the C-market price is low, coffee farmers may be forced to sell their coffee at a lower price, which can have a significant impact on their livelihoods. Specialty green coffee buyers can help to mitigate the impact of the C-market price by offering pre-financing, which allows coffee farmers to receive a portion of the payment for their coffee crop in advance of the harvest. This can help to cover production costs and provide a buffer against market volatility.

Futures contracts as a hedging strategy

As the above factors can contribute to price fluctuations in the coffee market, which can make it difficult for coffee farmers to predict their income and plan for the future. This is especially true for specialty coffee farmers who are producing high-quality coffee that is sold at a premium. In the context of the coffee industry, hedging refers to the practice of using financial instruments, such as futures contracts, options, or swaps, to manage price risk.

One of the most commonly used hedging strategies is the use of futures contracts on the C-market. Not to be confused with early contracting, futures contracts allow farmers to lock in a price for their coffee crop in advance, ensuring that they receive a fair price regardless of market fluctuations. The price of the futures contract is determined by the current market price of the commodity, which is influenced by supply and demand factors, as well as global economic and geopolitical events.

Coffee futures contracts are traded on commodity exchanges such as the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). These exchanges provide a platform for buyers and sellers to trade coffee futures contracts and manage price risk. Coffee futures contracts are typically standardized in terms of quantity, quality, and delivery location, which helps to ensure that the contracts are easily traded and settled.

For coffee farmers, then, futures contracts are an important tool for managing price risk and ensuring that they receive fair prices for their coffee.  Farmers who are producing higher quality coffee that is sold at a premium may face more price volatility than farmers who are producing lower quality coffee. The C-market price does not always reflect the true value of specialty coffee, and is often based on lower-quality coffee that is traded in bulk—it does not take into account the unique flavors and attributes of specialty coffee.

As a result, coffee importers and roasters who are committed to sourcing high-quality specialty coffee often pay a premium price to ensure that farmers are fairly compensated for their hard work and dedication to producing exceptional coffee. For coffee importers and roasters, futures contracts can also be a valuable tool for managing price risk and ensuring a stable supply of high-quality coffee. By purchasing coffee futures contracts, importers and roasters can lock in a price for their coffee in advance and avoid the risk of price fluctuations in the spot market. This can help to ensure a consistent supply of coffee and stable pricing for their customers.

The importance of fair pricing in specialty coffee

As we specialize in sourcing specialty green coffee from around the world, we understand the importance of fair pricing for coffee farmers and the impact that the c-market price can have on their livelihoods. We are committed to building long-term, sustainable relationships with coffee farmers and their communities, which is why we have local teams on the ground at origin. We're able to work more closely with our partners to ensure that farmers receive a fair price for their coffee (and that our customers receive the highest quality specialty coffee available). By working in tandem with coffee farmers, cooperatives, and their communities, we're able to gain a deeper understanding of the local context, including factors such as production costs, social and economic conditions, and cultural practices that can impact the quality and value of the coffee. This also allows for fair and transparent pricing that reflects the true value of the coffee and—most importantly—helps to ensure that farmers receive a greater share of the final sale price for their coffee.

This is also why we encourage our customers to join us on an origin trip to visit our coffee production partners, farmers, and communities. A deeper understanding of the complexities of coffee production helps all of us create a more equitable and sustainable coffee industry that benefits everyone, from the farmers who produce the coffee to our roasters who bring it to market.

Discover the differences between early contracting and futures contracts in our quick breakdown.

Courtney has 10+ years of experience in creating, building, and scaling strategies, brands, and content.