Trust Jersey Shore‘s Snooki to come up with the line of the decade when it comes to beverages. Only difference, I am talking about coffee. With business intel on the coffee industry showcasing better tidings this year, price fluctuations would be closely watched. Being a part of this industry, I would. Vietnam and Brazil are showcasing a shortfall and it must be seen how India rises up to this shortage. The last time such an instance occurred was in the mid-nineties when Brazil experienced a severe frost and its crop got nearly wiped out.
Such scenarios require a clear view of the market rates as they fluctuate and there was a time when ITC’s e-Choupal provided day-to-day updates in line with the NYSE. Somehow this venture to connect rural India and enable farmers to be direct sellers fizzled out. I wont be surprised if the middle-men lobby got to ITC and threatened their supply chain considering ITC was on the verge of entering the food chain at that point in time.
The Coffee Board of India has tried to do its bit in providing real-time prices as Arabica and Robusta prices keep swinging. However real-time is an unreal phenomenon when the Coffee Board updates its site. The dependance on real-time price falls back on the middle-men (exporters) who are a phone call away from the latest prices. Chennai port determines the prices (don’t ask me why).
Commodities trading websites, mainly Wall Street based, do provide the international prices. But then you have the conversion rates and export rates to take into account and it just doesn’t add up. All you have is an approximation, in terms of percentage, where you can sort of predict the swing from the rates quoted by exporters.
For all the talk about e-nabling the agricultural sector, nothing concrete seems to be in place. The price still depends on the local mandis and APMC yards where fixers are galore. ITC proved that this could be done in the past and there’s no reason why it cannot happen again. Reuters came into the picture some time back and contacted coffee growers directly for business intel reports that were delivered on your mobile. I did receive them for some time and then the fee subscription kicked in. Waited to see how this would work, but looks like that too fizzled out. Anyway I did realise that these Reuters reports were a day old, so there you go – lack of real-time monitoring and measuring. Real-time management in an information age governed by digital guidelines is not something you can ignore. Let’s see how long it takes to get there. It’s a market opportunity for anyone willing to listen. You get the agri sector hooked in India and you will realise the depth of this market.