Coffee prices are set according to the New York “C” Contract market. The price of coffee fluctuates wildly in this speculative economy, generally hovering around fifty cents per pound.
Most coffee is traded by speculators in New York, who trade approximately 8-10 times the amount of actual coffee produced each year. The single most influential factor in world coffee prices is the weather in Brazil. Droughts and frosts portend shortages of coffee and the price increases.
Specialty coffee is often imported at a negotiated price over the C market, which is considered a ‘quality premium’. Most of those premiums never reach the coffee farmer, but rather stay in the hands of the exporter. This creates a disincentive for farmers to increase their quality, as they do not receive the direct benefits of increased investment in producing better coffee.