Supply Chain Management of Coffee Business

The supply chain describes all the path of the materials which they pass from the very beginning to the ending point which is the retailer or the customer. In practice, the majority of organizations receive the materials from a list of different suppliers and transfer production to different consumers. Therefore, having passed through various levels of suppliers and through various supply chains, initial materials can be combined together in the factory, pass through the organization, and on the exit, products occur which then, moving through various levels of consumers, disperse again.

Separate supply chains sometimes connect with each other to satisfy the demands of different consumers, and sometimes the general supply chain is divided into separate branches, when the same product travels to different users using various ways. As a result the picture of supply chains becomes more and more complex, especially if the organisation produces a set of different products.

Thus, each product has its own supply chain, and as a result the general number of different configurations of such chains is huge, and at that some of them are very short and simple, and others complex and long. Considering the case of the short supply chain in ‘Asparagus from Thailand’, this paper analyzes a similar in length but different in challenges supply chain, i.e. the supply chain of coffee.

The coffee business is a very diverse one in terms of scales. The main challenges can be met in the intermediary chains that might occur before transport and logistics take the lead. The dilemma is in the fact that many sorts of high quality coffee come from countries with weakly developed supply networks. For example, in Yemen, a country popular for its coffee, “most of the coffee bean’s quality attributes are determined at the farm level it is critical to work together with the farmer and the necessary middlemen. So, in order to improve exports it is vital to address every step of the chain.” (2005)

Comparing to Asparagus, the existent problem was the storage during transportation, whereas in the company handled the production directly from the farm into packaging and quality assurance. In coffee industry “Between 50 and 70% of the global coffee supply came from small-scale farms by 2001” (Stanley, 2002), and in countries such as Ethiopia “After the cherry is harvested, it is sold to wholesalers or collectors or to the cooperative.” (2008)

In that sense, the logistics cannot be definite about the point after which they take control of the shipment. Additional sign of warning can be apparent at the stage of controlling the quality of the product. One of the stages in supply chains is roasting. This is an optional stage as some companies prefer to by directly from their roasting companies, others buy the coffee roasted locally. In Yemen for example, “Most exporters dealing with collectors reported serious quality problems with large percentages of foreign matter, discoloured or broken beans from milling and high moisture content.” (McCarth, 2007)

Summarizing the difficulties of Coffee supply chain, it could be said that in order for the logistics to effectively operate, especially with small scale suppliers, there is a need for implementing conceptual network. This network should be combined with checkpoints on various stages of the supply chain, in order for the product to have minimum interference, and systematize this network as much as possible.



(2008) The Coffee Supply Chain – Fair Trade vs. Non-Fair Trade. Overseas Cooperative Development Council.

CHARLOTTE FILMS LTD (2008) ‘Asparagus from Thailand’: Logistics in the international food industry Laureate Education.

MCCARTH, S. P. (2007) Smallholder Specialty Coffee Compliance: Ethiopia and Yemen Case Studies. Trade Standards.

STANLEY, A. (2002) Starbucks Coffee Company. Dartmouth College.

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