Why Starbucks May Have to Lower Its Coffee Prices at the Register

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A massive fire at a Brazilian port virtually destroyed six warehouses containing 180,000 tons of raw sugar waiting to be exported. That will cut into an expected sugar surplus of 2 million tons in the current marketing year. Four people were injured in the fire but there were no deaths reported.

While the loss of the sugar will certainly affect warehouse owner Copersucar, the world’s second-largest sugar trader after Cargill Inc., the price of sugar should see little change.

At the same time, coffee prices are falling as weather conditions in Brazil have improved after four years of drought in the world’s largest coffee exporting country.

The net result for Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) and other coffee purveyors should be lower costs. And the companies could (should?) pass its lower costs on to its customers.

Coffee prices are down 21% so far this year and sugar prices have risen somewhat to 19.5 cents a pound in New York, but over the past two years sugar prices are down 47% according to Bloomberg.

What about milk for that vente latte? For some time Starbucks has blamed rising milk prices for the higher prices it charges customers. But milk production is higher than it was a year ago and is on a five month string of higher production levels which should have the effect of reducing prices.

We noted earlier Monday morning that China’s state TV network is charging Starbucks with unfair pricing in the Middle Kingdom. The company denied that it is overcharging in China.

Starbucks’ operating income was sharply higher in the second quarter and are estimated to rise by $0.09 sequentially when the company reports results on October 31st. Perhaps it’s time to give customers a break.

Shares of Starbucks are up about 0.3% in mid-afternoon trading on Monday at $79.58 after posting a new 52-week high of $79.91 earlier. The 52-week low is $44.27.