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A new wave of coffee shipping arrives in New Orleans.

For years coffee has been shipped around the United States in burlap bags weighing up to 250 pounds, while in major ports in Europe, coffee beans ride on conveyor belts where they are easily loaded into lined silos. Now, this European technology is coming to the United States as U.S. ports break free from the darkness inside the burlap bags and see the light of bulk shipments.

The Port of New Orleans is the first port in the United States to see this light, and is currently building a bulk green coffee terminal. The old Public Grain Elevator complex at the Port of New Orleans will be transformed into the largest, most modern bulk green coffee facility in the world, according to the port.

The grain elevator complex was demolished in 1990 to make way for new warehouses and wharfs under construction as part of the port's $200 million capital improvement project.

A lease covering a 3.2-acre silo complex was signed by Roberto Gambini, president of Solocaf New Orleans, Inc., and J. Ron Brinson, president and ceo of the Port of New Orleans. Silocaf will spend $14.5 million to renovate and equip the complex with bulk-handling equipment.

Upon completion of the silos, the coffee will arrive in 20-foot long synthetic lined containers that will dump 20 tons of coffee beans into hoppers inside the silos. The silos will hold 42,000 short tons of beans, the equivalent of 649,300 60-kilogram bags. The bins in the silos will segregate the beans by quality and type.

The largest importer of green coffee at the port, Folger Coffee Company, has also reached an agreement with the port. Mark Upson, president of the Folger Coffee Co., and Gambini signed an agreement stating that Folger will bring its bulk green coffee through the plant for five years.

The Silocaf project was developed by the Italian based conglomerate, Pacorini Finanziaria SpA of Italy, the parent company of Silocaf, which has been working with port officials on the project for about two years. A Pacorini Finanziaria subsidiary currently operates a $15 million bulk terminal for green coffee in Trieste, Italy.

"New Orleans is the first port for coffee in America," said Federico Pacorini, vice president of Pacorini Finanziaria SpA, "and Trieste is the first port for coffee in Italy and the Mediterranean."

Shipping green coffee in bulk is the new wave of coffee shipping. Besides maximizing handling efficiency, bulk coffee, according to officials, retains its quality better. Coffee shipped in bulk is handled in lined containers where it is less susceptible to variations in temperature and humidity than bagged coffee.

No Port money will be used for the project. Pacorini Finanziaria will put up $4 million for the project, and bank loans will supplement the remaining costs.

Included in the lease, which is expected to be for 20 years, is an office building. The building will provide a coffee center including office, laboratory and cupping facilities for coffee traders and brokers, along with housing the administrative offices of Silocaf.

According to port officials, construction and renovation of the facility will be completed in two phases. In Phase I, Silocaf will spend $12.5 million to put 140 of the 203 bins in the silo into operation. Within the next four years, Phase II will put the remaining 63 bins into service. After Phase II is complete, the plant will have an annually capacity of four million bags, according to Gambini. The plant should be operational by January 1993.

Although the new bulk coffee plant will be open for use on a nondiscriminatory basis, due to the five year agreement, Folger Coffee Co. will be a major customer of Silocaf's new facility.

According to Ben Boor, product supply manager of Folger, his company imports over half of all the green coffee coming through the port. The project ties directly into Folger plans, said Boor. Folger is outfitting several of its plants with bulk processing equipment. The Procter & Gamble subsidiary has already erected a bulk coffee silo at its plant in eastern New Orleans.

Pacorini Finanziaria is no newcomer to the bulk coffee bean market, with its subsidiary owning the bulk coffee plant in Trieste, along with just completing the permit procurement process for a $25 million bulk coffee plant in Victoria, Brazil. The company is currently studying the possibility of building another plant in Singapore, as bulk shipments look as though they're here to stay.

PHOTO : Shown above is the site that will be renovated by Silocaf to create the bulk green coffee facility.

PHOTO : Shown above are, seated from left, Roberto Gambini, president and ceo, Silocaf; J. Ron Brinson, president and ceo, Port of New Orleans; Mark Upson, president, Folger Coffee Company; and standing, Roberto Pacorini, president B. Pacorini SRL; Federico Pacorini, vice president, Pacorini Finanziaria SpA; and Ben A. Boor, Folger product supply manager.
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Title Annotation:grain elevator complex at the Port of New Orleans to be transformed into bulk green coffee facility
Author:Boxman, Alyson R.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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