Port’s boon for bean-roasters

Published 9:14 pm Monday, July 21, 2014

Area coffee roasters are perking up after the Port of Virginia was certified to take deliveries under a futures contract for coffee beans.

Last week, IntercontinentalExchange Inc., which specializes in agricultural commodities, selected the commonwealth’s port as a delivery point for Arabica beans sold under its “Coffee C” futures designation.

The designation allows exchange-graded coffee imports coming into Virginia and stored in local, exchange-licensed warehouses to be delivered against the futures contract.

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“For Zanetti in general, and for the other local roasters, it’s recognition from ICE that this area has become a very important coffee area,” said George Kneisel, vice president of commodities for Massimo Zanetti, whose roasting and packaging plant is on Suffolk’s Progress Road.

Announced by the Virginia Port Authority last week, the designation specifically shows ICE understands the importance of Virginia’s coffee imports to the coffee industry, Kneisel said.

Coffee volumes into the port have been rising, says Virginia Port Authority Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director John Reinhart. In the first five months of 2014, the port handled 20 percent more beans than in all of 2013, and over 50 percent more than in all of 2012.

“This exchange port status is very positive news for The Port of Virginia and the growth of the region’s industry surrounding this commodity,” Reinhart wrote in a news release.

ICE’s futures contract is regarded as the world benchmark for Arabica coffee, with the benchmark price determined by deliveries of exchange-grade green beans, originating from 19 countries, to licensed warehouses in ports across the United States and Europe.

Previously, coffee traded under ICE contracts could only be delivered to New York, Miami, New Orleans and Houston in the United States.

In Virginia, the beans will be stored at RPM Warehousing and Transportation in Norfolk, and at Continental Terminals Inc. in Chesapeake.

According to the authority, the designation was supported by research from the Green Coffee Association and the port.

Statistics in 2013 showed that Virginia ranked fifth domestically for coffee, with 8 percent of total association stocks.

With data showing large volumes of beans arriving from several key origins — including Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, Honduras and Mexico — during the past four years, the exchange judged volume of C-style Arabica coffee beans arriving at and stored in the Port of Virginia sufficient to merit the status.

Starting in 2013, the application process was “very competitive,” according to Reinhart. “Virginia has a very strong application because of many established businesses in the arena, like Green Mountain, Massimo Zanetti, Mountanos Brothers, the J.M. Smucker Co. and warehouses like RPM and Continental that support this commodity,” he stated.

When the change to the futures contract becomes effective in September 2016, vendors using the port will be able to store more unsold green coffee beans, Kneisel said.

“It should increase the unsold inventory that’s available to be purchased,” he said. “We won’t have to move coffee from New York or New Orleans (for instance).”

Massimo Zanetti had discussed such a designation with the port for the past couple of years, he said.

“We thought it was a very logical step for the port to pursue,” Kneisel said.