Robusta coffee climbs to eight-month high as Vietnam sales slow

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Robusta coffee climbed to an eight- month high as sales in Vietnam slowed, sending local prices to the highest since October.

Sales of beans in Vietnam, the largest grower of robusta beans, slowed as farmers' stockpiles became "thinner," Volcafe, the coffee unit of commodities trader ED&F Man Holdings Ltd., said in a report e-mailed Friday. Vietnamese beans reached VND42,000 ($2.02) a kilogram (2.2 pounds) on Thursday, the highest price since Oct. 18, data from the Dak Lak Trade & Tourism Center show. The price eased to VND41,800 on Friday.

Robusta coffee has climbed 22 percent this year as demand increases, especially in emerging markets. Global coffee demand will rise by about 2 percent in 2011-12, according to London-based broker Marex Spectron Group. All of the growth will come from robusta beans, the broker said.

The "rising demand trend in robusta has significantly tightened the global robusta market, quickly absorbing much of the large Vietnam crop, and leading to falling European stocks," Kona Haque, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. in London, said in a report e-mailed on Thursday.

Robusta coffee for July delivery rose 1.4 percent to $2,217 a metric ton on NYSE Liffe in London, the highest settlement since Sept. 8. A Bloomberg Survey published on March 26 predicted prices would reach as high as $2,236 a ton by the end of May. The price touched $2,235 a ton on Friday.

Roasters may be tapping beans stockpiled in Europe as Vietnam exports drop. Inventories with valid certificates in warehouses monitored by NYSE Liffe were 171,380 tons as of May 14, down 0.7 percent from 172,530 tons two weeks earlier, the exchange said Thursday. Stockpiles have been falling since reaching an all-time high of 417,420 tons on July 11.

Cheaper option

"Right now robusta still provides a cheaper option for roasters' blends, as they try to capture emerging market customers as well as cater to the lower-end segment at the traditional markets," Haque said. "The tighter fundamentals for robusta will continue to support London futures."

Robusta coffee for July delivery was $29 a ton higher than beans for September delivery, up from $25 yesterday, data on Bloomberg show. That market structure is known as backwardation and may signal limited supplies.

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