Every morning, Dan Gustama, Account Manager for Maersk Line, has his regular coffee fix, but in a very different way to you or I. At a dusty depot in Lampung, Indonesia, Dan’s crew gets ready to inspect the day’s delivery of empty containers, and a batch of quality containers are separated for a commodity with a unique aroma that is known the world over – coffee.
“The nature of the coffee bean is that it easily absorbs the ambient smell. So a container for storing coffee should not smell of any other stuff. We usually have to air any smelly containers for two to three days before they are fit for coffee storage,” Gustama says.
And the man knows his coffee, adding:
“Newly built containers are also unsuitable, as the beans will absorb the smell of fresh paint. So some older containers we use may not look too good from the outside, but we assure clients that the interior is suitable.”
The major type of coffee being traded is Robusta coffee, a common strain used in a variety of coffee products. From around April to October each year, coffee farmers harvest their crop, selling to local exporters such as Asia Makmur and Olam Indonesia.
From plantation to port
The harvest is trucked to a Panjang warehouse for processing. Beans are dried and separated based on grades, and then packed into gunny sacks. Next they are loaded onto containers and trucked out of the port for transhipment to Tanjung Pelepas in nearby Johore, Malaysia.
After this the coffee beans begin their long journey to global clients such as Nestlé in the USA, where the roasting process begins and finished coffee products are put on supermarket shelves and sold in cafes.
The Port of Panjang in Lampung, Indonesia accounts for some 51.2% of Indonesian coffee exports. Most of this volume goes to destinations such as Europe, the Middle East, the USA and Latin America.
In 2013, total coffee export volumes from Panjang numbered 379,000 tonnes. Local exporter Asia Makmur is Maersk Line’s biggest client here, and accounts for 18% of the market share. The second-largest Maersk Line client, Olam Indonesia, commands 14% of the local market share. Both clients ship primarily to the USA, a major coffee market.
Budi Setiawan, owner of Asia Makmur, says: “Maersk Line fulfils our requirement for food-grade containers – no smell and dry. Even though our product isn’t time sensitive, Maersk Line has always been on schedule.”
Maersk Line Indonesia ships an average 3,700 TEU of coffee from Panjang every year, and 40% come from major clients Asia Makmur and Olam Indonesia. According to data from the last three years, the potential to expand export volumes exists – from 2011 to 2013, the total volume of coffee shipped by Maersk Line from Indonesia increased almost fourfold.