TROUBLE IS BREWING in America. The reopening economy’s hunger for goods from China, and for the containers that carry them, has left importers of coffee, of which the average American guzzles two cups a day, struggling to ship the stuff from Brazil. They are using whatever they can get, says Janine Mansour of Port of New Orleans, where much of America’s raw coffee lands. That includes much bigger boxes, which reach the maximum allowed weight before they are full. Importing part-empty containers adds extra costs, Ms Mansour says, and these will ultimately be swallowed by consumers.
It isn’t just coffee prices in America that are rising. Transport logjams and paltry harvests in producing regions have conspired with surging demand to stoke food inflation across the smorgasbord. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) expects the value of global food imports to reach nearly $1.9trn this year, up from $1.6trn in 2019 (see chart). In May its index of main soft commodities hit its highest value since 2011, after rising for 12 straight months. Another benchmark index, by S&P Global, a research firm, has risen by over 50% since July 2020. On July 22nd the boss of Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch maker of everything from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Hellmann’s mayonnaise, said that pricier raw materials have caused his firm’s