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Amidst the prolonged crisis in the world coffee market its leading players decided to make the Russians drink two times more coffee this year than the year before. The coffee market has really fell into a nosedive and is now experiencing one of the most difficult periods in its history. Not only is it overwhelmed with crisis of overproduction, also the major consumers of coffee - Europeans and Americans - have simultaneously rushed into a struggle for healthy lifestyle, in the concept of which coffee just doesn't fit. As a result, the consumption volume has sharply decreased and wholesale prices fell, reaching their 10-year low - about 60 cents per pound (450 grams).

Experts point to Vietnam as the main culprit of all coffee troubles. First it spurted onto the second place after Brazil in coffee production (it has grown by more than 80 times in Vietnam!). Now the Brazilians produce about 2 million tons of coffee a year and the Vietnamese - 900 thousand tons. The Vietnam phenomenon came in handy for big coffee magnates producing instant coffee: now more than a half of the world market is controlled by only three transnational corporations - Nestle, Kraft food and Pauling Sara Lee Export.

Coffee magnates suppress the prices for raw coffee, making huge profits on it, - Russian Organization of Coffee Producers comments. While twenty years ago one third of the world's profits from coffee export (10 out of 30 billion dollars) went to coffee growers, now the volume of the world coffee market is 50 billion dollars and profits of coffee-growing countries fell down to 8 billion dollars. Among all producing countries this situation probably suits only Vietnam, where the work force is very cheap and the industry still brings high profits. But, say, in Brazil, where the cost of agricultural labor is much higher, the losses of coffee plantators are running into billions. To swim out the coffee powers decided to bet on Russia. For the role of a lifebuoy keeping coffee producers afloat Russian market fits best, they think.

Although Russia ranks in the bottom of the developed world by coffee consumption, Russian market is one of the most prospective ones. Its yearly growth is 12 - 15% by expert estimates. Now the world coffee producers have begun an aggressive fight for our market, - says a representative of Business Analitika company. They strive to make coffee a Russian national drink along with vodka, to train Russians to use whole-bean coffee and thus to grab a part of the profits of international corporations producing the instant drink. By our estimates this year Russian market can grow by 18-20%. Each company or producing country that now establishes itself in the Russian market will be able to gain sound profits in the near future. Coffee suppliers have already developed a program of promotion of natural coffee among the Russian population. Coffee retail is to play the central role in it. This is why in all major Russian cities coffee shops and coffee houses, which offer exclusively pure natural product of several kinds, are proliferating like mushrooms after the rain. According to experts, the market of coffee houses is practically undeveloped here, the competition in it is low. For example, in Moscow out of 500 million dollars of total turnover of fast-food restaurants, less than 10 million dollars falls at coffee houses. And though the experts agree on the opinion that this is a prospective market segment (only in Moscow its potential is 3 thousand coffee houses, while now there is only 140 of them), as yet nobody is speaking seriously about a coffee boom.

Most existing coffee houses are not yet affordable to everybody, - explains Alexey Popovichev, head of Russian Organization of Coffee Producers. - It is doubtful that any old lady will drop by for a cup of coffee for 100 - 140 roubles knowing that the production cost of this cup is 10 times less. With the development of the market coffee houses have the same prospective as restaurants - class stratification. There will emerge elite coffee houses with expensive interior and expensive cognacs served with coffee, there will be coffee houses for middle class and coffee fast-food for everybody.

Another consumer-culturizing influence comes from growing number of specialized departments in big supermarkets and boutique shops selling coffee, where courteous sales assistants are always ready to explain to the buyer all the peculiarities of choosing and cooking of this product. More than 50% of our buyers of natural coffee prefer ground coffee and only about a quarter of all customers take coffee beans, - admitted a sales assistant of a coffee boutique to the RK correspondent. Basically, Russians have never been drinking a lot of coffee: Russia is a tea country. This is why our culture of consumption is still far from the coffee-enlightened West. The most educated of our customers know one or maybe two kinds of natural coffee, and the majority of customers choosing natural coffee don't have any particular preferences.

We are behind the enlightened West not only in the culture of coffee consumption but also in its quantity. According to Roschaikofe Association, an average Russian drinks 160 cups of coffee a year, while an average European - 700 cups. The real coffee maniacs live in Scandinavia, where every resident consumes 1200 coffee cups a year. And while coffee superpowers fight for the Russian consumer, transnational corporations still skim the cream off the market. Russia remains the country of instant coffee, having 85% share of its worldwide sales.