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Starbucks chief blames high coffee prices on speculators

The logo for Starbucks coffee is seen surrounded by empty bottles of wine.

JEREMY HOBSON: Well if your cup of coffee is more expensive than usual this morning Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says don't blame him. He says speculators are causing coffee prices to soar. On a visit to the U.K., Schultz, said market manipulation has driven the price of beans to a 34-year high.

Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: Last month coffee cost an average of $2.31 a pound. That's almost double what it was a year ago. This is not due to supply and demand, claims Howard Schultz. The Starbucks chief told the BBC that speculators have been covertly pushing up the price of coffee and other agricultural commodities.

HOWARD SCHULTZ: I wish there was a lot more transparency involved in the process in which we could really understand what the index funds, the hedge funds are doing. It's a very strange phenomenon.

Schultz wants the regulators to wake up and smell the coffee and investigate. But Keith Flury, commodities analyst at Rabobank says there's little mystery about the high coffee price. Supply is being outstripped by demand especially in emerging markets.

KEITH FLURY: There's a lot more competition for the beans internationally not just from cafe drinkers in Europe but cafe drinkers in China as well as drinkers in Brazil themselves.

Helping to drive that demand, he says, is the huge growth in the number of cafes -- like Starbucks -- opening up around the world.

In London I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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