An Update on the Global Shipping Situation

by Guest Author July 05, 2021 3 min read

A slightly more serious Impact Berry update to keep you in the loop about how we’re handling green coffee imports to Hong Kong in the current situation. Despite everything that’s going on, you can be sure that there’s no interruption to the coffee supply from Impact Berry. We never forward any increased shipping rates to you either, no matter how much they fluctuate.

The shipping process is a crucial node in the coffee supply chain, bringing fresh green coffee beans from origin to destination, but the physical movement of products worldwide has always been a sensitive arrangement. When you compound a spike in online shopping, the pandemic, the Suez Canal blockage, and civil unrest into the equation, you end up with turmoil that will take months to unravel. 

Whether it’s raw materials or consumer packages shipped by air or freight, we’ve come to expect delays in the current environment. According to the US Census Bureau, e-commerce increased 40% during the pandemic, and warehouses everywhere are overloaded as goods await their transport vessels. Much of the space on air freight has been reduced and what’s left is usually prioritized for medical supplies. Shipping fees have increased by as much as 100% for some routes, with sea freight averaging a 50% increase along routes through Asia. 

One of the major issues the industry faces is a severe shortage of shipping containers. Nikkei Asia estimates a shortage of around half a million containers, and their prices have shot up over 350%, from $1,486 per 40-foot container in May 2020 to $5,472 in May 2021. Additionally, the average layover for a container through sea terminals has also doubled from 20 to 40 days, further disrupting the flow of materials worldwide.

Nevertheless, sea freight prices are still less volatile than air and remain cheaper and more eco-conscious. Impact Berry only ships coffee via sea freight – always have, always will. We’re so thankful for our producing partners in Indonesia and Vietnam, and by working closely with them throughout these chaotic times, our logistics have stayed smooth and reliable. Of course, it helps that we import green coffee in large quantities at low frequencies so we can avoid major disruptions to our supply chain. 

By shipping coffee by sea from Asia to Asia, we can reduce our carbon emissions by over 90% kg! For example, shipping 1kg of coffee from Brazil to Hong Kong by air emits over 12.5kg of CO2. However, when we ship the same amount from Vietnam by sea, we can reduce that down to 0.02kg. It’s also important to note that a lot of coffee beans in Hong Kong are not shipped directly from the origin country. Instead, they’re sent to a middleman, sometimes based in the US or Europe, further adding to the carbon footprint of the transport. 

Sustainability is at the forefront of our Impact framework, and that encompasses everything from seed to cup. That’s why we work directly with our partner farmers to purchase their coffee and get it shipped to us by sea. Unfortunately,SCMP estimates that the shipping industry won’t be able to clear the backlog brought on by the pandemic and return to normal levels until later this year or even early 2022. Nevertheless, Impact Berry’s coffee supply (and our prices) remains stable and secure. We will continue to monitor the situation and prioritize the best solutions for our fellow coffee lovers and the planet going forward. 

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