Chinese green coffee production is on the decline while domestic demand for unroasted and roasted coffee is expanding rapidly as more consumers embrace the beverage, according to a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service.
The annual report underscores the rapidity with which the Chinese coffee market is evolving, based on changes to both the domestic coffee sector (production) and the domestic coffee market (consumption), the latter primarily taking place in large and mid-size cities.
Green coffee imports to China in the market year 2020-21 increased by approximately 80 percent over the previous year, to approximately 1.68 million 60-kilo bags.
Overall, coffee imports to China — including green, roasted and packaged soluble (instant) — reached the equivalent of 3.8 million bags in 2020-21, with estimates sitting at 4 million bags for the current market year.
That would place China roughly between Russia and the United Kingdom in total annual coffee imports, although China represents that fastest-growing coffee import market by percentage among all the world’s major coffee-buying countries, according to previously December 2021 FAS data.
The most recent report attributes much of China’s import market growth to the retail sector, with the number of total coffee retail outlets expected to grow from approximately 108,000 in 2020 to approximately 120,000 stores by the end of 2023.
“Compared with other coffee consuming countries such as the United States and Japan, coffee consumption in China is a relatively new phenomenon, with younger consumers willing and interested in trying new flavors and coffee products,” the FAS report states.
At the same time as this consumption boom, coffee production in China is reported to be slowing, with an estimated production decline of approximately 1.75 million 60-kilo bags in market year 2020-21.
Sources within the FAS report “indicated that many coffee farmers in Yunnan are finding coffee production less profitable and are switching to other crops,” the report states.
The report also notes that the government or multi-stakeholder-led initiatives to spur the commercial green coffee sector in China were most active between 2014-2019, but that in “the recent years programs to support coffee production expansion have not been publicized.”
The complete report can be found through the USDA’s Global Agriculture Information Network portal.
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Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.