Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Kenya Wants to Double U.S. Coffee Shipments

  • Nation exported 6.1 million kilograms to the U.S. in 2015-16
  • Germany, Belgium are currently leading buyers of Kenyan beans

Kenya plans on doubling its coffee exports to the U.S., the world’s largest consumer of the beverage, by marketing the East African nation’s specialty premium grade beans.

“North America is a big market for specialty coffee and we expect the visibility Kenyan coffee gets will help grow our market share in the United States,” Kiplimo Melli, head of Kenya’s Coffee Directorate, said in an interview Wednesday in Nairobi, the capital.

Africa’s fifth-biggest coffee producer exported 6.1 million kilograms (13.4 million pounds) of the beans to the U.S. in 2015-16, from 7 million kilograms a year earlier, accounting for 14 percent of total coffee exports. Kenya wants about 30 percent of its crop to end up in the U.S. by end-2019, he said.

Germany bought the most specialty Kenyan coffee in the last season at 8.17 million kilograms, followed by Belgium with 7.4 million kilograms. While Kenya is a tiny grower compared with regional producers such as Ethiopia and Uganda, its beans are highly sought after for their acidity, and often used in blends to improve coffee from other origins.

U.S. Exposure

Average export prices to the U.S. were the highest in 2015-16 at $296 per 50-kilogram bag, 18 percent higher than to Germany, according to government statistics.

The nation’s produce will be showcased as a “portrait country” at this year’s Specialty Coffee Association of America symposium in Seattle, the home of Starbucks Corp., exposing it to more than 12,000 producers, roasters, brewers and buyers in attendance. This follows a delegation of American buyers that visited Kenyan coffee-growing regions in November.

Coffee exports rose 6 percent to 44,400 metric tons for the 2015-16 season, earning Kenya $206 million. Sales to the U.S. accounted for $32.8 million in the same period.

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