Coffee farmers impacted by inflation, high fertilizer costs

Posted at 1:51 PM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 17:45:30-04

Many people drink coffee on a daily basis, but probably don't how we get our coffee. With the war in Ukraine and rising inflation, it's getting tougher for producers to get a cup of joe in your hand.

One Idaho roaster sources his coffee beans from Guatemala, which is about a 3,000-mile journey and can cost farmers a pretty penny.

“For the future generations to come, it gets a little bit scary,” Revival Coffee Owner Eric Needham said. “It's still amazing that we can get coffee from as far away as we do. It’s such a world economy that we rely on.”

Eric Needham

Russia is one of the top fertilizer suppliers and on top of rising inflation costs, coffee farmers and producers are feeling the pinch.

“It started with COVID and just the shipping industry, which affected fertilizer because, after a little research, a lot of fertilizer comes out of Russia as well as the potash they use out of Belarus,” Needham said. “The South America regions are really suffering the most due to fertilizer.”

Eric, who owns Revival Coffee Roasters with his wife Cam Needham, said a lot of the farmers are on a fixed budget, making it hard to adjust to rising fertilizer prices and ultimately raising concerns about the impacts on next year's crop.

“The quantity of coffee coming out, they just aren’t able to produce,” Needham said.

The fertilizer and inflation squeeze add to the regular challenges of farming, like crops that just go bad.

“Then it puts the whole market into a panic, and everybody is scurrying to buy coffee and the prices get way jacked up,” Needham said.


At the store, customers may not even notice a change.

“We as a producer rarely change. I don’t think we’ve ever done a price increase, but the cost has fluctuated up to 50% more,” Needham said.

Instead, customers might notice so-called “shrink-flation" where the package size of products shrinks while the price stays the same.

“Typically at the store, you used to get a pound of coffee, now you get 12oz. So it's like the cereal box they used to be this big, and now they are this big. You pay the same price but your actually not getting as much as you used to,” Needham said. “It is amazing that we can have it for, as I always say, inexpensive as we can because I can't believe they can grow it, hand pick it and then the beans get shipped to us in shipping containers and then they have to get trucked all the way and over here and then we have to roast and when you roast it you lose about 20% just to the drying process. Then you have to package it up, It's amazing we can even afford a cup of coffee at the end of this whole process.”