News and updates

COVID-19 Update

An update from Project Origin in the current situation (COVID-19)

Hi coffee friends,
I truly hope you, your families and your colleagues are safe and well right now. It’s a crazy time and every day the world around us seems to change even more.
This update is to let you know what Project Origin in Australia is doing while this Covid-19 health issue continues and also to offer you guidance and support should you need it by making sure you know what is happening up the supply chain.
Key points so far:

  • Covid-19 remains uncontained in Australia and many countries globally.
  • Uncertainty in economic markets has seen the AUD drop to its lowest rate against the USD in the last 18 years.
  • Lockdown measures and business closures are driving uncertainty making it hard to plan for tomorrow let alone the entire year. This has affected cafes, roasters, ports, shipping lines and importers, as well as ports, exporters and producers at origin.

What is Project Origin’s plan?
As always, our plan is guided by our core values, Quality, Sustainability and Community. This health crisis fortunately has no bearing on the quality of coffees we are working with now, or preparing to share in the future. So, our global coffee community and the sustainability of our producing partners at origin and roasting partners in consuming countries, as well as our own company’s sustainability is where we are focusing our attention.

Our singular goal as a company is to still be here with ALL of our team members, standing strong, when this health crisis is all over. Below are the measures we are taking with our Australian operations to ensure it’s possible:

  1. Our whole team is still working to ensure all supply to our clients continues in as normal a manner as possible.
  2. From March 30th all of our team will be working at 50% capacity in line with recent reductions to café (and roaster) trade.
  3. We are directly contacting every client to understand their plan so we can work with them as this situation evolves.
  4. All incoming shipments are being carefully planned or staggered to ensure our cashflow can manage them on arrival.
  5. Priority for new harvest shipments is being given to contracted coffees only.
  6. We will minimise holding any coffees available for spot coffees that have not already arrived into our warehouse.

The above measures mean we can still run all of our normal operations just at a lower volume and we have kept all of our team members working.

As for our partners at origin, producers and exporters, we firmly believe that the more sustainable we make our business practices in Australia right now, the stronger we’ll be when this crisis is over. And with that strength we will support all our partners for many years to come. This year will be tough, and this is going to involve sacrifices up every level of the supply chain. There’s no doubting that, but if we keep the entire chain in mind and act with our values at heart, together we will thrive.

What should roasters do in this environment?
If we can offer any advice right now it is this:

  1. Focus on the short term without forgetting about the long term – The situation changes every day so don’t get too caught up on what happens next year. Take baby steps based on what you know right now, while sparing a thought for what happens if this situation goes for longer than expected.
  2. Be clear – let your customers know what you are doing and be honest with them. Trust is critical in times of crisis.
  3. Be creative – people still want coffee, and your customers still love your business, they just can’t visit like they used to, so help them access you and your products in other ways. Delivery services, online trade, retail focused options, home brewing kits, online training are all things that are seeing major growth right now.
  4. Be positive – there’s enough negativity in the world right now. Be a source of positivity. Share any little wins or good vibes you can, we could all use it.
  5. Look after yourself and those around you – ultimately this is a health crisis. Remember that without our health we really do have nothing. By protecting your health, and that of your immediate family, colleagues, friends etc you will be doing your part to help this crisis resolve itself.

How will this crisis affect green bean supply?
Realistically the uncertainty around shipping container availability and sea port closures means it’s become a lot riskier to ship anything. It is likely that some importers, roasters and cafes will run out of stock of some items from time to time over the next few months.
Our advice for each roaster is to focus on the products that are most in demand and prioritise those. Consider your needs for the next 3-6 months. If trade is slower than expected you will still be able to use the stock while it is inside a good freshness range.
After we see the real impact of the current lockdowns in most countries we will have a better idea of what the impact will be in the next 6-12 months. But right now this situation continues to evolve every day so planning short- to medium-term first and focusing on products that will always have stable demand is the best way to go.
What’s the situation with shipping companies and sea ports?
With so much confusion around ships docking or not being allowed to unload cargo there have been delays in containers clearing, which then affects availability of empty containers when new cargo is trying to leave an origin. In addition, some ports are entirely shut which also slows down this process.
However, currently the shipping lines we are using are operational in all countries we work with, there might just be some delays as a result of how some ports are working right now. The situation is evolving and changes regularly so it’s worth being mindful of how this can affect your company with any decisions to schedule shipping or rely on anything incoming in the next few months.
How are exporters at origin doing?
Most producing countries recognise that coffee is a valuable source of work and income for many businesses and families and so ports and coffee production is mostly still happening. However, just like depots and ports in Australia, if there are any cases of Covid-19 in these places everything shuts down. So the situation is fickle and subject to change with no notice.
Right now our exporters are all still ready to mill and ship coffees with the exception of Colombia, which has a self-imposed shut down to protect some of their workers that live with vulnerable people and prefer not to take any chances.
We are checking in with them regularly and will update this as new information comes in.
How are producers at origin doing?
We are incredibly relieved and grateful that from a health point of view most producers are not impacted by this in the same way as we have seen in major cities across Australia and around the globe. The wonderful scenery and landscapes that we love when we visit origin is also keeping them naturally isolated from city centres where the virus seems to be most active.
We are following up with them frequently and will share their stories through our social media platforms so you can also understand what this situation means for them.
Right now, their priority is to keep themselves and their families healthy. Beyond that they will be focused on their farms, their crop and regaining any business opportunities they’ve lost through this period. And we intend to be right there with them through it all, and into the future. Together we will thrive.
If you have any questions about any of the above, or any other matter related to green bean supply, get in touch with your regular account manager or contact us at [email protected].
Stay safe and caffeinated.

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