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All eyes to sea as Le Havre's ship comes in.

All eyes to sea as Le Havre's ship comes in

Wet and cold, warm and sunny, the Boulevard de Strasbourg, Le Havre's coffee street, has a weather as fickle as the coffee market. Perhaps this tempestuous backdrop for one of Europe's great centers for physical coffee--coffee you can actually run your fingers through--explains the unusual calm and philosophic ambiance of its coffee scene. Like the uncertain fortunes of the coffee market itself, weather in Le Havre is an inescapable fact of life and one takes it in stride.

As for trading, little has apparently changed in recent months in Le Havre. The sense of rivalry with Paris persists. Traders remain generally divided into two camps, those specializing in service to French roasters, particularly the smaller ones, and typified by such trading houses as Jobin, Langlois and Loevenbruck, and those with more international leanings, such as SCRD (Raoul-Duval), Eurocafe, Delamare and Intercafsa (the new name for Seicao). There's not been much concentration here, although Jobin merged last year with SCRD. Some new faces have come to the Boulevard, some familiar ones are gone. The dire straits of the '86 market have been weathered.

Beneath the surface of steadfast continuity, however, one finds important developments in Le Havre that will surely affect the Boulevard's future: Le Havre is serving an increasingly important regional roasting industry; as a coffee port Le Havre has emerged with a unique service package that should reassert its place in the pan-European network. These developments mean that Le Havre is both gaining a larger local market as a base for its coffee, seen strikingly in the activities of such roasters as LePorq and Vadour Danon, while pursuing a highly competitive course in relation to competing European coffee ports such as Antwerp and Rotterdam.

The Port remains very much the soul of coffee in Le Havre. The city is not large; the port is all. Although fairly numerous and competitive among themselves, the importers, brokers and forwarders are also a closely-knit family with the port as their rallying ground. The coffee landscape of Le Havre is dominated by the International Coffee Trade Union, Robert Jehan is president, with 16 members from trade and industry; by Societe des Receveurs de Cafe (SRC), Lucien Giguet, president, with five importers and two forwarders as members; and by the port itself, where fittingly enough the very active chairman of the board is Hubert Raoul-Duval (of SCRD), a man with coffee in his blood.

In the future, the port is to be considerably larger as major expansions are completed, and this will bear on coffee as well. But primarily, the challenge in Le Havre today is to `market' the wealth of existing services and advantages that already constitute coffee in the port. Le Havre has no close competition as France's foremost coffee port. It handled 240,000 tons of coffee in 1987, of which 180,000 tons were cleared for domestic use. The Port's strength in coffee is due in part to its huge free trade zone and status as operational for both Paris-Le Havre and London Terminal markets. Its strength is also based on an impressive range of facilities, services and shipping lines.

Le Havre offers 70,000 sq. meters of coffee-designated warehouse space. This is supported by a complete menu of professional coffee handling services, by SRC and Same Delamare, and augmented by the capabilities of the new SRC coffee silo--one of only three serving Europe.

Location is also a factor. Le Havre is both the first port of call in northern Europe for ships sailing from producing countries, and the last port of call for ships bound for North America. This makes Le Havre a nexus in transhipment and reshipment traffic.

The port is bullish on coffee these days, and is probably giving coffee more specific attention than any other large European port. Examples of this include recent large investments--to centralize computer operation for all coffee warehouses--and a cost-cutting strategy for coffee. Last year the port helped organize an agreement on reception terms that in sum has lowered transit costs on coffee through Le Havre by 20 percent.

PHOTO : Le Havre is France's leading coffee port and a vital link in northern European coffee

PHOTO : shipping and trading. Currently, the port is aggressively wooing coffee with an impressive

PHOTO : array of coffee facilities and services, and with cost-cutting measures.
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Title Annotation:Le Havre, France, coffee port
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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