Java drinkers rest easy. Sen. Charles Schumer has perked up to the spiraling cost of coffee beans, and he wants something done about it.
The New York Democrat has asked U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to warn major coffee growers Brazil and Vietnam at an International Coffee Organization meeting later this month to not stockpile their crops, a move that could further boost bean prices that already have spiked this summer because of poor crops in some regions.
The fallout from rising prices has been brewing for months. Coffee futures spiked in June and have remained high. Coffee producers and sellers — including Folgers and Dunkin' Donuts coffee maker J.M. Smucker Co. and the Wawa convenience store chain — have already raised their prices.
Starbucks Corp. has said it will absorb the higher cost.
Why the buzz? According to Schumer, the issue goes beyond bad crops.
The senator said in a statement that Vietnam bought more than 60,000 tons of its own coffee last spring and was considering a plan to stockpile up to 200,000 tons. Meanwhile, Brazilian growers have pressured their government to consider a similar move.
Schumer said coffee exporters are acting like "the OPEC of coffee," a reference to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has a large influence on oil prices.
"Play by the rules, that's all we're saying," Schumer said Monday afternoon in a phone interview.
The senator noted in a letter to Kirk that Brazil and Vietnam have accounted for about 45 percent of world coffee exports over the past 10 years, and the United States is the world's largest coffee importer.
"If it was just weather, there's not much you can do, but it's beyond weather," he said in the interview. "It's people trying to manipulate the market. We want to stop that."
Kirk will review Schumer's request and discuss it with him, said Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative.
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